Big question: when do we most often have difficulty with expressing our feelings openly? Easy answer: when there is conflict.
While conflict will never go away what can go away are the patterned responses we learned in dealing with conflict when we were four, seven or twelve. These early behaviors helped us cope when we felt small and unsure of how to react. They got us through difficult times yet, now they interfere with our ability to have and hone mature relationships.
Do you recognize any of these patterns at work, and especially in yourself?
- The Avoider: Leaves the scene – either physically or emotionally when the going gets tough, so the real concerns are never faced.
- The Denier: Pretends everything is perfect out of a desire to keep everyone happy.
- The Victim: Goes from person to person asking for advice on how to solve problems – and then takes none of it and blames themselves for any issues.
- The Drama Queen or King: Chews the scenery and makes lots of noise in a hand-wringing performance in which no real truths are told and no lasting situations are found.
- The Splitter: Complains to others behind closed doors but will never go directly to the source with a concern.
People who resort to these ways of reacting rarely make good leaders or good lovers.
Here are two steps you can take to get beyond the old, outdated attempts at conflict resolution and get to the heart of the issue.
STEP 1: Learn the language of feelings: Be honest about how the situation makes you feel. The key to the language of feelings is to put your emotional response right after the word "feel." Here is an example: “I feel discounted” or “I feel angry” at work. This is much better than “I feel that you were not listening to me.” All that does is put blame on the other person.
STEP 2: Trust the reactions in your body: Intense emotions over a specific incident that last more than fifteen minutes have less to do with the situation at hand than with an earlier unresolved hurt. So check your watch and how long you go around the same old same old problem and begin to look back in your life for a clearer answer.
Conflict offers us an opportunity to examine our own values, beliefs and behavior patterns. Use this time to grow and become an exemplary leader who does not shy away from conflict and who can also move through it faster and smarter.