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For Communication to Be Good, We Must Learn to Be Able to Have Conflict in a Fair and Healthy Way!

“Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible — the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.” – Virginia Satir

Communication is the very foundation upon which all relationships are built. Not only the words we say but everything we communicate through our attitudes, behaviours, tones of voice and touch.

Good communication includes healthy conflict

Good communication also involves differing opinions, ideas and thoughts and so with this blog on communication I want to talk about how conflict affects a relationship and needs to be healthy conflict. It may often appear easier to hide in our fear or our righteousness and not always as easy to be vulnerable, honest and open. Sometimes it can seem satisfying to yell and yet difficult to listen. Conflict can be healthy and with knowledge, skills and a willingness to put love first you can become a positively solution oriented fair fighter. There are definitely some behaviours, habits or patterns which must be eliminated from your relationship to facilitate having healthier communication even during a conflict, argument or disagreement.

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”  -Benjamin Franklin

So good communication also includes healthy conflict;
For good communication everyone must understand one of the most basic rules of getting along with others. That is every relationship has conflicts or arguments; they are a natural healthy part of every relationship. But not everyone chooses to fight fairly or in a healthy way. Do you choose to fight fairly? Because how you choose to engage in those natural conflicts is the difference between causing unnecessary hurt and creating more issues to deal with, escalating the unhealthy or focusing on the issues at hand and being respectful, honest, interested and solution oriented. Our attitude and behaviour around conflict is a good measuring stick as to whether our relationship will withstand the test of time. Relationships benefit tremendously when you learn how to handle conflict in a healthy way, learning how to fight fairly and engage in conflict in a more positive way is good for every relationship in your life. What is healthy conflict? What is unhealthy conflict? How does one fight fairly?

Unhealthy conflict occurs;

If you engage in: threatening or using a threatening tone, violence of any kind this includes throwing things or punching things, not just violence against people, nasty sarcastic comments, hitting below the belt, name calling, screaming above the other person while they are trying to talk, drudging up past history or saying something just because you know it will hurt the other person.

If you gang up on your partner in any way like bringing in your parents or friends to support your side of the argument or use expert opinions, books etc. without really listening to your partners side of things.

If you jump to negative conclusions to quickly or engage in blaming statements or telling the other person how they feel or diagnosing what is wrong with them and not saying what is truly going on for you.

If you close down emotionally and give your partner the cold shoulder or worse the abusive silent treatment, you are engaging in unhealthy conflict, and not fighting fairly.

These above behaviours are abusive and damaging to relationships. They will close down the lines of communication and create other issues and blocks in the relationship. To support a healthy solution based, fair fighting communication, these behaviours must change.

When you are in disagreements, you can fight in a healthy way that will not harm your relationship in the long run. You need to recognize the way that you fight now and determine if this is productive or not, healthy or not.

As an example if you are the one who name calls, makes sarcastic comments, or screams and curses at your partner, you have most likely recognized this doesn’t bring you and your partner closer together. You know you don’t want to emotionally berate the other person. You will first want to re-evaluate how you fight, where do your behaviours become unfair/ unhealthy and how can you, do things differently, when faced with a conflict, how can you engage with the other person more effectively. You may need to take a moment to clear your head, go for a walk and get control of your emotions before discussing the issues at hand.

You may want to make an agreement that only one issue at a time can be dealt with or at least one person’s issues at a time can be worked on at a time which avoids mudslinging back and forth and recognizes that the person with the immediate issue is the one being listened to and focused on and that the solutions are directed at that issue. Make sure you stick with that agreement.

This is about making sure that both you and your partner feel heard and listened to when you each have issues which naturally come up in life. Giving our partner our full attention, being interested and willing to listen to what is really going on for them even if it is about you, without getting defensive and attacking goes a long way in feeling respected, appreciated and loved.  Then looking for ways to change things or solutions to issues becomes a joint venture and a loving, compassionate place.

Healthy conflict and fighting fairly can include, taking a time out if you need time to cool off or you begin to slip into unhealthy behaviours or your partner does, before continuing to discuss the issues. Taking a time out is identified as that with the intention and commitment to continue the discussion when you are able to.

It also entails healthy communication, willingness to compromise, and discussing items of conflict without withdrawing physically or shutting down emotionally. Can you touch your significant others hand when your discussing something where you feel conflict? Or do you pull yourself away the minute a conflict arises.

  • Do you recognize behaviours in yourself that are unfair or unhealthy?
  • What are they?
  • How could you do things differently? More fairly/healthier?
  • Are there areas that you just don’t know how to change?
  • Could you get outside support to assist you?
  • If you need to take a time out what would be the best way for you to do that?
  • How could you be a better listener?
  • How could you behave more lovingly when having conflict with someone you love?
  • How could you be more respectful during a conflict?