Not Alone Series: Conflict and Problem-Solving


Let’s talk about problem-solving. Not just solving the problem of finding a husband, but how to approach the negative parts of a relationship. Conflict arises in every kind of relationship: romantic, familial, friendly, professional. The best defense is a good offense, so what are your tips for managing conflict? Are you non-confrontational, or do you have a fiery temper? How have you worked through problems in previous (or current) relationships? Have you learned to “fight fair”? Do you have advice for avoiding or working through conflict?

When I was thinking about this week’s prompt, I honestly did not imagine that “non-confrontational” and “fiery temper” could coexist in one person. Then I saw Rachel’s post and almost laughed out loud at her Xena meme. (I work in a cube. I try not to actually LOL. But I wanted to, trust me.)

I am happy to say that I rarely reach Warrior Princess levels of anger. When I do get really livid, I can actually feel my blood pressure rising, but I keep the rage monster chained up. That feeling is the worst because (a) I’m angry to begin with, (b) I’m frustrated because I can’t think straight through the pounding-pulse fog, and (c) I’m embarrassed because I feel like the person I’m arguing with can hear the tension in my voice. And sometimes I cry, and I can’t always stop, even when I desperately want to. People tend not to take me seriously when they realize I’m angry or upset. I hate it.

So I would fall pretty firmly in “non-confrontational” whenever possible.

On the other hand, I’m a pretty good communicator, and I like to Get Things Done. I have been told that I am a good listener. (Can anyone ever really self-assess that?) I used to do marriage prep (for other couples, not for myself), so I have some real experience. I learned how to listen to people without judgment, correct and clarify when necessary, make them talk and listen to each other, and assess good conflict resolution and problem-solving techniques in action. I can’t make people’s decisions for them, but I can force them to consider the decisions they’re making.

I also got much better at “just laying it out there” and picking a good time when I need to open up a discussion. That’s especially important when you think it will turn into an argument.

Here’s an example situation: I needed to have a serious talk with my current supervisor (about my problems, not about him), so I caught him in person around midmorning and asked if I could have a short, closed-door, sit-down chat. I literally said, “Can we have a quick sit-down?” I was expecting to need to schedule a time, but I was also ready to go for it immediately. We did the latter, and I went straight to the point. It turned out much better than I anticipated. (I’ve also experienced the complete opposite, but I’m trying to give positive advice here.)

One of the best conflict techniques I’ve ever encountered is to pick a good time. You have to acknowledge when it’s just not a good time to have a serious conversation.

Examples of bad times:

  • while someone is watching a live event (sports, something on TV, timed video games, etc.), or maybe even something pre-recorded and/or capable of being paused
  • when someone is leaving (home, work, the classroom, a party, etc.)
  • first thing in the morning, especially before caffeine
  • when someone is hungry or tired
  • when someone is in the middle of a task (a work project, chores, etc.)
  • late at night, right before bed

Regarding that last one, I realize that it contradicts the idea of “pillow talk,” but I have never been good at that. (Um, I mean at sleepovers. The kind with female friends. Not with boys. I don’t even do that, remember?) When I get in bed, I’m going to sleep. I fall asleep quickly, and I sleep like a rock. Your mileage may vary.

The key to picking a good time is to be ready to hear that it’s not a good time. If you’re starting the fight (so to speak), your inclination is to pick a time that’s good for you. But things will go much better for everyone if you pick a time that also good for them. You might even have to schedule some time to argue. It’s awkward, but how badly do you want the problem solved?

Over time, I’ve put effort into learning and practicing good communication techniques to use in and outside of conflict. I focus on things like choosing my words carefully (all that vocabulary from school comes in handy), figuring out how to express my thoughts and feelings in words, and not assuming I know what someone is thinking or feeling. I can’t read minds. Or hearts. (Side note: Jesus can!)

I think being a good communicator helps me manage conflict. I never want to start a fight, but at least I can pull myself together and use my skills to fight well. (Except for that crying thing. No idea how to fix that.)

Bonus: The Savvy Psychlogist, podcast network neighbor of my faves Grammar Girl and Get-It-Done Guy, has a whole episode about how to stop avoiding conflict! I was aware of avoiding “but.” I will start working on remembering “I’m sorry you” versus “I’m sorry I.”

Next week’s topic: Habits and Virtues

Virtue is a habit of choosing good over evil. How do you cultivate virtue in your life as a single? How do you grow in faith, hope, and love? How do you promote justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude? How do you spread kindness and champion chastity? On a practical level, what are some good habits you’ve developed for your single life? And on the flip side, what bad habits and vices have you overcome? (It’s okay if you’re still working on some of them!)

View past and upcoming topics here or like our Facebook Page for regular alerts.

Link up with Rachel at Keeping It Real!

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[…] Misunderstandings can cause anger to rise up in even the coolest of heads. I shared my best advice when I wrote about conflict, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be finished talking about talking, as it […]

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