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Coping Tips

Conflict Involves Two Parties

Conflict involves two parties but others often get caught up in creating persecution, victim and rescuers.
When two people have a transaction – including conflict- it involves both parties. Both people create what happens, each influences the other and is affected by the other – often a third party gets involved creating a negative triangle – usually exacerbating the conflict and making matters worse, for example-
Dad: "You're stoned again – I've told you not to use drugs in this house!"
Son: "What I do is my business – why can't you leave me alone?"
Mum: "You shouldn't shout at your dad, he is only trying to help."
Son: "Keep out of this – you're always butting in where you're not wanted."
Mum: Starts crying.
Dad: "You've done it again! You're always upsetting your mother."
Son: "Just fuck off and leave me alone."
This is a classic example of negative transaction and the consequences of triangulation.
If we examine each person's feelings they are all legitimate – the son feels nagged at, ganged up on, dad feels angry at the drugs in the house rule being broken and mum is feeling distressed because she was yelled at. It's how they express their feelings and the behaviour that follows that is problematic.
It is not a matter of who is to blame or that the conflict is a particular person's fault. Usually people are coping as well as they can and the conflict is created inadvertently.
If we can get away from the idea that we are right and the other person is wrong we can start to find better ways to resolve these issues.
  • If how I behave invites a certain kind of response from the other, then I can choose to behave in a way that invites them to respond in the way I want.
  • If how I respond to others is to accept their invitation to react in a certain way, then I can choose to decline their invitation and react in a different way
When we choose our response and behave differently, then often other people respond differently to us. What we put out, we get back. Therefore:
You can't change someone else, but ...
You can change your response to them.
This then invites a different response from them, and ...
They respond this way and change.
So if you want to change someone, try changing yourself!
In conflict we tend to either give up or feel powerless to affect the ways someone behaves, or we try to dominate and control them. However, the reality is somewhere between these two – we do have influence.

Our influence has limits.
This isn't magic and it doesn't always work – the other person may not 'hear" your invitation as you meant it, or they may decline to take up your invitation.