Why did nobody teach me this before I got married? Before I entered the workforce? Before I had friendships? Why these principles aren’t the most important things for parents and teachers to impart… I do not know. If I had learned relationship tools that actually work early on, my marriage probably wouldn’t have decayed to the point of seeing a divorce lawyer and I would have been spared so much drama in the workplace and friendships. Seriously.
So, obviously, I have to share these amazing principles with you. They are magical! I must be honest though, they will only reveal their magic when you truly give them a chance, which could mean practicing them in real life situations over and over again.
I have gleaned these principles from multiple places, textbooks, websites, psychologists… But, I’ll give a shout out to Dr. Rick Marks of Relate Well Institute and Brooke Castillo of The Life Coach School for helping me really nail down these skills to handle relational conflict with maturity, and no drama.
Here’s what you need for navigating tension with maturity.
#1 Goodwill and Love – On purpose, no matter how the other person is acting, or what they are saying, doing, or accusing you of—you can choose to view them with love and goodwill. Instead of embracing resentment or anger in response to how others behave, we can choose love. It is harder than it sounds, but I promise you, when you are feeling love for the other person on purpose, it is very hard to engage in or escalate drama and conflict.
#2 Humility – Let go of the need to be right. I know, I know. I can hear you now,
“But he is so _____.”
“But she called me a _______.”
“But, you don’t know what he did!”
This might be a hard one to believe, but it doesn’t really matter. You gain nothing, other than conceit and judgement, in your desperate pursuit to be right. It is the human experience to want to prove ourselves right. But in important relationships, it breeds contempt, drama, and tension. If that’s working for you, go for it. But if you want to reduce the drama and create space for healing and understanding, choose humility and let go of the need to be right. (This doesn’t ever mean you are condoning mistreatment, it just means you don’t have to prove you are right.)
#3 Respect Others Autonomy – Guess what? We cannot control other people. Ever. We can try to manipulate and control, but they always have free will to think, feel, and act any way they want. Stop trying to control the other person! Each of us has our own experience, our own perspectives, our own free will. Trying to manipulate others will only cause problems in your relationship as you make a long list of expectations for them. If you need to, you can create boundaries where you decide what you will do if they act a certain way. But make sure that boundary is for your benefit or protection, not to punish or control the other person. (Read Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend to fully understand what healthy boundaries are how to do them well.)
#4 Responsibility for Feelings – Have empathy for the other person’s feelings. You don’t know exactly what it is like to be them. It is not up to you to decide how they feel. Let them be them and give a hoot about their experience, even if you don’t fully understand or agree. You don’t need to understand or agree to care. And then, take responsibility for your own feelings. Your feelings are yours and yours only. You are fully responsible for them. If you feel angry, or wronged, or embarrassed, or sad… that’s on you. Your thoughts about the situation are influencing how you feel. Think carefully and take ownership for your own thoughts and feelings. They are not the responsibility of the other person. And guess what? If that thought about the other person makes you feel like crap, you can totally change the thought to one that leads you to compassion, curiosity, or love. You get to choose. Choose wisely.
This may be a lot to swallow in one sitting, but maybe start with choosing to feel love on purpose, because you want to, regardless of the other persons actions, and see how it changes things. If nothing else, you get to feel love instead of contempt. And that, my friend, is a win.
If you like this article, check out why life coaching is for everyone in “Who Need’s A Life Coach?”