Inside all of us there is this deep need for connection, if you’re a huge extrovert like me, then this need gets pretty obvious when you’re bored of your own company after three minutes of being alone (can I get an AMEEEEEEEN from all the extraverts in the place?!) If you’re more introverted this need may not be so obvious in your life- but trust me, it’s still there.
It’s in our DNA. Since the beginning of time we’ve been built for community; whether it’s friendships, relationships, colleagues, fellow students, family, church, youth group, even our insta-tribe, community is where it’s at.
Whether we like it or not, we need each other.
But here’s the thing, we’re not perfect, are we? We don’t always get this whole connection thing right. We hurt each other, time and time again.
I once heard a super wise person liken us to hedgehogs.
When hedgehogs are cold, afraid or in distress, their instinct is to huddle, to get real close with each other and snuggle for support. But there’s an obvious issue that comes to mind when we think of hedgehogs snuggling (although that’s a pretty cute image right?)- they’re spikey, they hurt each other and push each other away when all they actually want to do it be close.
Are you getting where I’m going with this?
We’re spikey, we hurt each other and push each other away all the time, at least I know I do. Conflict is an inevitable part of life, but it doesn’t have to hurt us so much.
Here are two do’s and two don’ts of conflicting well.
So, let’s start with the do’s….
DO KNOW YOURSELF:
You have issues. You have baggage. You have insecurities. You have stuff that hits a nerve when brought up – yes?
There’s not a person in the world that doesn’t have those things.
You need to know yourself, you need to know what you’re sensitive about, you need to know your issues. Here’s one of my things; I’m hugely defensive, I fight fire with fire, if someone is putting shame on me, my instinct is to throw some straight back at them. I know that this is an issue that I have and that I often bring into any conflicts I face. Because I know that I do this, I can catch it early and check myself before my defensive instincts kick in. What’s your stuff? What do you need to catch before it blows up?
Maybe, just maybe, someone has unknowingly hit a sensitive spot within you. It wasn’t intentional, they just weren’t aware.
DO BE HONEST:
This is a pretty obvious one, but it’s a biggy and so definitely worth a mention. If you’re not being honest, there’s no point, nothing will get resolved, in fact it will probably just get worse.
The whole ‘I told you I’m fine’ line will get you nowhere. Trust me.
Be honest with others and with yourself, it’s the only way anything will ever get better. Nobody is a mind-reader, don’t let your feelings brew and don’t get mad when someone takes you at your ‘I’m fine’ word, just be honest. It’ll be worth it in the end.
And now for the all important ‘Don’ts’…
DON’T CHECK OUT:
This is a simple one – stay present. Don’t avoid the conversation, don’t walk away, don’t pull your phone out and ignore what they’re saying, don’t get distracted by hurt, don’t be deafened by defensiveness.
Listen. Acknowledge. Take note.
Even if you don’t agree with what is being said, everyone has a right to be heard. Stay present in the moment, stay committed to hearing the other person out, honour their opinions. This shows amazing maturity and lets them know that you may not agree but you really do care!
DON’T LEAVE THINGS ON A NEGATIVE:
The end-game of any healthy conflict is that things get better, right? (if that’s not the motive behind a discussion, maybe think about whether you should be having it.)
Never finish a conflict without a resolution, a way forward, a sense that things can only get better because you chatted it through. If you’re not at that point, you’re not done talking. However, if you’ve been talking for a while and are going round in circles, you can take a break and peacefully agree to come back to it at a time that suits you both. But DO come back to it.
You need to get to a place where it was worth it, although difficult and a little uncomfortable, your relationship is better because you were honest with each other and have found solutions to any problems you may have been facing.
Leave things in a good place. Always.
We need each other, God invented community because He knew that we would flourish and bloom into all we can be in the presence of others who love and challenge us.
Keep a kind heart, wise mind, loving spirit.
You’ve got this.