Mishnah Berurah Tiferet

Past Articles:
CONFLICT AS OPPORTUNITY

By: Mozelle Forman, Lcsw



What do you think of when you read the word “conflict?” Many of us think of screaming and yelling and see conflict as something to be avoided at all costs. Others relish the idea of a good debate and thrive on
the drama.

In a conflict there is usually a winner and a loser and, since no one wants to be the loser, conflicts can escalate sharply. But what if conflict were used as an opportunity for growth and healing? Sounds counterintuitive. Yet if we focus on the value of encountering an opinion contrary to our own and coming away with a better understanding of ourselves or a particular situation, then conflict serves a greater purpose.

Now I am not advocating that we run out and pick fights to test this theory, but conflict is a normal, common aspect of any relationship. So how can we win even when we think we are losing an argument? All that is necessary is the willingnessto hear another person’s perspective. Most people, even when they don’t get their way, will refrain from pursuing a conflict when they feel heard and understood.

I recently witnessed a conversation-turned-debate between a husband and wife. It went like this:

Her: “I think we should….”

Him: “Yeah but….”

Her: “ But I feel….”

Him: “Yeah but….”

Her: “I really believe….”

Him: “I don’t think that’s true…”

I was exhausted listening to them because the conversation never went anywhere. She kept saying what she was thinking and he kept saying what he was thinking but they never acknowledged the other’s opinion or feelings. It was actually like listening to twomonologues.

Being a marriage counselor, I intercepted the argument between my two friends. I suggested they give each other the time to state their full thoughts before they rebutted with their own opinions.The wife began to share what was most importantto her about the subject. The husband listened without interrupting and then spoke to his feelings without interruption.

It was soon uncovered that the husband felt deeply sad about the decision they were trying to make. The wife had a hard time hearing that because she had her own strong emotions about the decision. Interestingly, after they each expressed their feelings and felt understood by one another, their focus shifted from winning the argument to accommodating each other. That was the growth –
being willing to give the other what they needed – and the healing – knowing that their partner was willing to give up what they wanted for their sake.

We see that conflict yields a double gift: The opportunity for growth and healing! Perhaps we shouldn’t shy away from it, after all.

Please visit my newly launched website – mozelleforman.com

 

Mozelle Forman is a clinical social worker in private practice for 20 years.
She welcomes your comments at
mozelle.relationshipsbydesign@gmail.com.