Often the greatest displays of growth come through conflict, especially within our relationships. In both personal and professional relationships, we're guaranteed opportunities for growth through friction. However, the way we handle conflict is a testament to our character and will define whether we come out of it stronger. Now, if we check ourselves, we can probably admit we don’t always handle tension in the healthiest ways. Our communication issues rear their ugly heads and we find ourselves stuck in a bad cycle or, worse, tumbling into a downward spiral. So, how do we gain the wisdom to help us build thriving relationships? We must identify our negative behavior defaults that stunt relationship growth, then we'll be able to find positive alternatives to put into practice.
We’ve all heard the age-old rhyme, “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.” It’s a cute aspiration, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Words do hurt, often causing the biggest divide in our relationships. When an offense comes our way, we react with hostility towards our offender, and it may even spill out towards bystanders. But why? Rather than sharing what caused our hurt, we decide to return the favor and hit below the belt with name-calling, cursing, shouting or bullying. Whether it’s the use of piercing words or a negative tone, while it may feel easy to resort to this behavior when wronged, it doesn't make it right.Resist the negative language default, speak the truth with love and express feelings that address the issue and not the person. Words should never be a plan of attack against someone, even when we’re trying to state our case.
Sometimes when we’re hurt by a disagreement we threaten to be forever silent. With our cold shoulder, we distance ourselves and sulk, desiring the other person to grovel to fix the issue. Unfortunately, this isn’t an effective way to resolve anything. It only leads to the other person feeling slighted, making way for the problem to linger and magnify instead of getting resolved. It's OK to take some alone time, but don’t use it as a manipulation tool to get the other person to apologize. The silent treatment default won't get you very far. It won’t get your point across any quicker and it won’t help the other person understand your feelings. The best way to make your feelings known is to keep the lines of communication open. Conflict in our relationships may trigger our negative defaults, in whatever form they may arise—there are many more than mentioned here. But we don't have to succumb to those impulses. Let's prefer healthy relationships by using good communication to resolve problems together. That's when the focus shifts from fighting for ourselves to fighting for our relationship. The extra effort we put in to make our relationships grow by riding ourselves of unhelpful defaults, better position our relationships to not easily break.