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Overcoming a conflict with someone you’re close to

Overcoming a conflict with someone you’re close to

Most of us don’t like conflict in general, whether it appears to be needed or not. There are times when a little constructive criticism goes a long way. Case in point, if someone keeps eating your lunch for the next day or if you’re duplicating work that doesn’t need to be doubled up on.

But sometimes, conflicts seem to creep up out of nowhere. One week, you’re laughing with a couple coworkers and having a great time. The next week, one of those same coworkers is reserved and quiet and doesn’t want to communicate the same way.

So what happened?

Whether the conflict is with a romantic partner, coworker, friend or loved one, the answer could depend on a variety of factors, trouble with work, feeling under the weather, and, our greatest fear, something we did. Boredom with a longstanding routine can even set someone off.

What the person may not realize is they’re throwing you off as well. So how do you deal with it?

My thoughts.

1)Communicate. If you’re still able to have a conversation with the person, try talking to them. That might be enough for them to let you know what’s bothering them and put it in perspective. If they don’t directly bring it up, perhaps in the interests of not “unloading their briefcase” on someone else, be more direct. Mention you noticed they seemed down and is there any way you can help.

2)Planning for the future. Perhaps you can’t communicate with them. Perhaps you’re dealing with them over a distance at this point and can only email them. And perhaps they aren’t returning your emails. If you can’t communicate presently, you can still make a plan for how you intend to deal with them when you have an opportunity. Perhaps there’s a weekly or monthly meeting. Perhaps you can stay up a bit later and see them after their shift. Perhaps you can drop by and give them a tea. Sometimes planning to deal with a challenge is just as beneficial as actually acting on it and it’ll give you the peace of mind until the individual turns around and starts talking with you again.

3)Assuming the best. There’s that old saying about the dangers of making assumptions, but when you think about it, we’re all making assumptions, all the time. The only question is how good are our assumptions and what reasoning do we have for making those particular assumptions. One of the most common assumptions is deciding how our relationships are going with others. If we think, I haven’t done anything to hurt anyone, I’m a hard worker, I’m loyal, I care about them. These are all good justifications for assuming the best. If you’re doing all you can, the odds are good that if anything is wrong, it isn’t at least directly because of you and, when the time is right, things will get sorted out. The other person is probably dealing with another challenge in their life. There’s no point losing sleep over it.

4)Getting on with it. Sometimes a bit of distraction works wonders when you have challenges in another part of your life. Get to work, play some sports, listen to some music, talk with some friends. If it is something going on in that person’s life, you might have to wait it out the same way you’d wait out a cold. And doing those other things will ensure you stay productive while giving the other person time to overcome their challenges.

5)The list technique. This is something I learned from Dale Carnegie, the best selling author, and speaking coach. When there are bad things going on in your life, or at least things that concern you, write out a list. Make it as bad as you can. All the horrible things, perhaps including this challenge with a person you care for. Then rip up the list. Bonus points if you burn it afterward. Destroy it. And somehow, there’s a feeling that you’ve given those problems away. That you’re not holding them up inside the same way.

Dealing with an undesired conflict can be a serious hit to your mental health and productivity. It’s best to deal with it as soon as you can, and perhaps these strategies will be part of your approach when you do.


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