Growth Through Differences

    Fr BurnsBy Fr. Norbert Burns, SM

    Every type of relationship will encounter conflict, because no two people are the same. Some conflicts can help you grow in your relationship, but you must learn to disagree in a healthy way.

    You can grow through your differences if you engage in a healthy negotiation session. The session should be thirty minutes long with an agreed upon topic. Both people should take turns sharing their priorities. The goal is mutual acceptance of a solution.

    Here are some tips for growing through your differences:

    1. Remain Calm: Express your opinions, desires and concerns as calmly as you can. This will make it easier for the other person to listen to what you are saying rather than focus on how you are saying it.

    2. Appreciate: Try to appreciate the other person’s point of view. Truly listen to what he or she has to say and think about his or her reasoning.

    3. Choose a Time: Do not address conflicts at bedtime or mealtime. Timing is important. You want to ensure you both have the time to talk through a conflict and are not distracted.

    4. Be Respectful: Give up the luxury of wild accusations, verbal abuse, name-calling, shouting and threats. These are not substitutes for reason. Physical violence can never be condoned. Be respectful of one another.

    5. Focus: Do not zero in on vulnerable areas for the other person. Stay focused on the main issue the two of you agreed to discuss.

    6. Stay Current: Don’t bring up old arguments or past conflicts. Focus on the current relationship and conflict.

    7. Don’t Withdraw: The "silent treatment" can end effective communication and hurt your chances of compromise.

    8. Don’t Play Psychiatrist: Do not try to analyze what the other person is saying.

    9. Don’t Drag in Others: Do not use others as allies or "go-betweens."

    10. Call a Truce: Learn when to call a truce if emotions threaten to get out of control.

    As you address the conflict, remember to honor your feelings. Take time to assess how you feel and whether you want to express your feelings to the other person or, if minor or selfish, absorb your feelings. Expressing your feelings requires courage, but it’s important to remain true to who you are as a person.