3 Conflict Mistakes You Should Avoid

Conflict resolution mistakes blog

Resolving conflict is a key ingredient in healthy relationships yet sometimes avoiding it is the wiser choice. Not because resolving things isn’t important but because at the wrong time it can do more harm than good. Here you'll learn when conflict should be avoided so you can keep yourself safe.

I’m not suggesting walking away as the first course of action - but knowing when to opt out can prevent an argument from getting out of hand. This keeps relationships healthy because navigating conflict successfully helps you protect your relationships from unnecessary pain. 

1. When Anger Gets Abusive

How many times have you stayed in an argument past the point of it being productive?

Without the right tools, anger escalates fast and before you know it, a simple discussion turns into a yelling match. Your body goes into a fight, flight or freeze reaction flooding the body with stress hormones. That's why a simple conversation gets derailed so fast. Either way, it’s not the time to get into it.

You can’t think clearly. In the heat of the moment, you say things that you don't mean. When anger comes out in hurtful ways, it damages trust. Any kind of put downs, name-calling or making your partner feel inadequate crosses the line into abuse. Once this becomes a pattern, loved ones have a tendency to withdraw and avoid conflict altogether.

What you can do: Telling someone to calm down invites defensiveness. Instead take a break and set up a time to resolve things later. This is not the time to stand up for yourself but to do whatever you can to avoid abuse.

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2. When Alcohol Is Flowing  

It’s called liquid courage for a reason; drinking impairs judgment. After a few drinks, you're more likely to say something that you'll regret later. The ability to think rationally gets over-ridden by wanting to vent and be right.

Critical or negative comments come pouring out without a second thought. You drink to take the edge off but lose control in the process. Before you know it, reactions become too intense and lead to verbal or physical abuse.

Even if you never touch your partner, behaviors like blocking exits, threatening to leave and destroying property constitute abuse. Getting arrested happens more often that you think when alcohol is involved.

What you can do: Take steps to avoid confrontation when drinking. If alcohol is a continuous problem in the relationship, consider attending Al-Anon, a 12 step program for friends and families of alcoholics. If you think you're in an alcoholic relationship click here to read more Are You Codependent?

3. When Accountability is Absent

The most important quality to look for in a relationship is accountability. That means taking responsibility for your behavior. No one's perfect but not admitting fault destroys any chance for resolution. You’ll have a lifetime of being the scapegoat. Tag, you’re it for the next forty years. That doesn’t sound like fun to me!

The Gottman Institute discovered four specific patterns that predict divorce. Without accountability relationships stay stuck. The first two, criticism and defensiveness diminish loving interactions that used to bind you together. Nothing gets solved and the continued hurt leaves a wake of distrust.

The other relationship killers are contempt and stonewalling which destroys healthy communication. Contempt includes an attitude of superiority that makes the other person feel less than. Stonewalling happens when someone withdraws from communication as a way to punish or avoid conflict.

Most couples can see themselves in some or all of these behaviors - but once you know their potency, changing them happens when you can admit doing them. The four relationship killers flourish with continued blame and avoidance.

What you can do: Examine your beliefs around admitting fault. Change takes courage and a willingness to acknowledge mistakes as building integrity. Taking accountability frees us from the bondage of self.

Final Thoughts

When you know how to navigate conflict, relationships last longer and become more intimate. Parenting gets easier because you know when to pick your battles - and when to stay quiet. You're more successful at work because having good people skills makes you easier to get along with. You can practice these skills today and see a difference!

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