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Conflicts

/ 07:22 AM September 09, 2012

People can’t be expected to agree on everything at all times. When there’s disagreement, some people can’t handle it .

For the major part of my life, I was headstrong and faced conflicts boldly especially when my family and honor were  threatened. Later, I feared conflicts and then started avoiding them  because I was tired of fighting and more so because I put a  premium on peace.

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Conflicts arise between man against man, man against nature, man against himself. Regardless of the nature of the conflict, we still need to talk about it with the other person.

Easy to say, hard to do. I am no exception to this. I can cite the conflicts I had with my late husband.

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When he came home after midnight, tipsy and floating like a butterfly, I would pick that exact moment to argue. Result:  I seethed with anger and he dropped “dead” on our bed, snoring. Conflict unresolved.

Failed in Lesson 1: Make sure the environment is right. Pick a time that’s convenient (for both of you) and, whenever possible, a place that’s free of distractions and the potential for interruptions.

I wouldn’t plan well what to say to him. Though I’m good in writing techniques – who to have a good opening and closing, I struggled to organize my thoughts during conflicts. My words would gush out like water from a  faucet as soon as he entered the house. Result:  he ignored me and I ended up still seething with anger. Conflict unresolved.

Failed in Lesson 2: Plan what you’ll say and do BEFORE you meet. Practice saying the exact words you’ll use to open the conversation.

At the point of conflict, I would say a lot of things. I talked about how the house had to be cleaned, how the helpers were no good, how tough it was in the office, how our children misbehaved, etc. “How could you still come home late?” “You don’t really care about what’s happening here.” Result : He got hurt by my accusation and stepped out. I could have just said I didn’t want him to come home late.  Conflict unresolved.

Failed in Lesson 3: Get to the point. Don’t make excessive small talk outside  the issue. Attack the problem, not the person. Avoid accusations or assigning blame. Instead, use “I” statements to describe how you feel. Example: When that happened, I really felt belittled, embarrassed and under-appreciated.

And then I would start sobbing in between self-pitying questions: “Don’t you love me anymore? Am I not important to you? Do I not care for you enough?” Result: He  comforted me and I cried even more.  Conflict unresolved.

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Failed in Lesson 4: Control your emotions. Avoid “losing it.” Remind yourself that your goal is to get an issue resolved in a respectful, collaborative manner – not to “win” an argument or debate.

But because he’s drunk, he would just lie down again and sleep, leaving me to dry  my tears. I felt stupid staying awake and not getting a word from him. I would start dropping things and making noise to wake him up. When he opened his eyes, I would stand before him with arms crossed. Result: He didn’t see all these even if he opened his eyes. He went back to sleep again. Conflict unresolved.

Failed in Lesson 4: Pay attention to your body language. Avoid negative “message-sending gestures” such as arm crossing, finger tapping, head shaking, and eye rolling.

All these happened in the first three years of our married life. On the 4th year, we attended a weekend marriage retreat to learn how to manage conflicts. Our 5th year of marriage was further cemented when I accepted Jesus as my personal Saviour and my husband served as a lay minister. Indeed when God is in our midst, there is peace even as conflicts remain inevitable. For the next five years, we both grew better as parents to three children and most especially, as a couple.

Sadly, our marital bliss lasted 10 years only. He died in 1996. I look back and have no regrets. I  learned from my mistakes and I can only cherish my marriage as one of the best things that happened to me.

When we mismanage conflicts, it harms relationships. But when we remain respectful and positive during a conflict, this helps us grow and strengthens the bonds in our personal and professional relationships.

St. Francis prayed , “…For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned…” I want to add: It is in hearing others that we can be heard, too.

In conflicts, think “dialogue” not “monologue.” Communication is a two-way street so allow the other person to respond as he or she may also have feelings and concerns about the matter that may be needed to resolve the conflict

Today, I’d like to say I’ve passed the test of time. I’m not perfect (no one is) but I am a better person. I just hope I deserve God’s Passing mark when I meet him face to face…one day.

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