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One of the biggest struggles we face when it comes to ensuring our words matter, and making them count, is what we like to call “compensation mode”.
When you fall off the wagon or say harsh words, how do you get back on track? How do you take a stand and have difficult conversations while still nurturing important relationships and being kind?
Today, we share 4 ideas to help you navigate conflict and compensation, and hopefully be more intentional about your path and your interactions with others. Also, we are more than up for your ideas, because this is definitely something we are working on, too 😂.
And, while there will be a couple of takeaways for what to do after a big blowout, the truth is that it’s kind of like planning your retirement – it’s never too late to start, but the sooner you start, the better off you will be.
#1: Be pre-emptive.
It may seem counterintuitive to say “get back on track after losing it by not losing it“. But, whenever I’m debating a confrontation I ask myself two questions:
- Is this worth it? &
- Am I attacking a person, or a problem?
The key is getting used to when and how you can express your anger or other emotions in a way that will de-escalate rather than make the situation worse. In other words, respond rather than react.
And the best way to do that, is to practice.
First, Is this worth it? Am I going to damage this relationship more by not speaking up or speaking up? Is this a “big deal”, or one of my core values? How often does the “offense” cause hurt feelings?
I ask myself these questions on a regular basis. It helps me value my voice and know when to use it.
Actually, I often run into the opposite problem where I keep too much in and then blow up later. It’s just that when I ask myself, is this worth the relationship or not? it isn’t. I fear anything that puts that at risk.
BUT keeping quiet out of fear, and keeping too much in, also puts relationships at risk. So, when I say be pre-emptive, I mean take time to listen to the things that are on your heart, evaluate what is there, and then communicate it.
When you do, tackle any conflicts that arise together: “me and you” vs. “the problem”; not “me vs. you”.
We’ve talked about this before, but teamwork is powerful. When people who see differently work together – their combined solution breaks barriers. A team knows there are more than two options. A team values creativity and compromise. A team attacks problems, not people.
#2: Listen, listen, listen.
Along those lines, it will benefit you to learn how to listen well. Most successful solutions to any problem require compromise. If you want to “get back on track” in a relationship you need to know:
- What are they feeling? Sad, angry, hurt, annoyed, passionate, frustrated, confused, shocked?
- What is behind that feeling? Zoom out and ask yourself what is the end goal, hope, or need of your companion? 90% of the time I can almost guarantee it will not be to “ruffle your feathers” “make your life miserable” or anything of the sort.
Once you know the answer to these questions, you will be better equipped to find a win-win solution, or agree to disagree with compassion and understanding. But, in order to answer them, you need to be willing to take a breath, and listen.
It isn’t about converting each other or being right. Your goal is merely to answer these questions in order to help you make a more informed decision.
As human nature as it is to feel defensive or even blatantly plug our ears, remember: “In order to be understood, you must first understand” (Joshua Straub).
Especially if you are coming at this after you lose your cool, being willing to listen in return, after the fact, and listen for feelings as well as words, will help you gauge your response accordingly.
#3: Make deposits.
Another thing you can do both before and after “losing it” is make deposits.
When you hurt the feelings of someone you care about, follow up with love, yes, but better yet, start with love – make a love sandwich!
When you discipline your children, lead with love, share truth, and follow up with love.
When you talk about big feelings with your spouse, lead with love, share truth, and follow up with love.
When you speak up about a world issue, or a common problem that requires a solution – lead with love, share truth, and follow up with love.
“The Emotional Bank Account” is a concept from both Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages and John Gottman’s book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
You make deposits into someone’s emotional bank account when you lead with love and follow up with love.
Maybe that looks like being a good listener during your conversations together, making the time to go out to lunch with a friend, or cleaning the kitchen. But filling the emotional bank accounts of the people you love helps lessen the impact if and when you need to make a “withdrawal”.
And sometimes withdrawals are necessary!
Sometimes we have to get things off our chest, ask for what we need, or talk about hard things. Hopefully, you do that with the utmost tact, but, even when you do, it takes patience and trust to be on the receiving end.
That patience and trust develops as you consistently make deposits – not just by way of apology, but because you honestly desire to nurture that relationship.
Not only will showing an increase of love after an argument help you make strides toward restoring trust and goodwill, but trust and goodwill and love are built up over time. You can start making deposits right now.
#4: Say, “I’m Sorry”
There are two types of apologies that can be really powerful when it comes to confrontation.
First, be willing to apologize when you make a mistake. Be open-minded and recognize that your opinion may not be the only one. If you say something that you don’t stand by – be humble enough to say so.
You can apologize for words spoken, or for the manner in which they were said. The point is that you need to be willing to critique yourself, not just others.
It’s okay to find yourself in the wrong. That’s not failure; it’s progress – particularly when you are willing to say, I want to do better.
The second type of apology comes with an acknowledgement that you do in fact stand by your words, but you also understand where someone else is coming from and you are attempting to spend some time in their shoes.
This apology is more an act of empathy. You don’t need to offer inauthentic validation by claiming you were wrong, but you can offer the validation that what the other party is feeling is human, and that you are in this together.
Both forms of apology can go a long way toward building trust and getting you back on the path you want to be on, where your words matter, and they mean something to the people around you.
I also try to teach my kids “sorry” is something you do, not just something you say. Restitution is something that hasn’t always been easy for me, but doing something meaningful can often be more powerful than words.
In the end, we can’t control whether or not our apology is accepted, but we learn, we do better, and we work on forgiving ourselves along the way, too.
One-liner: Managing conflict is a long-term investment – start saving now.
Journal Prompt: Make your own “Emotional Bank Account”. This is not about keeping score, so it’s best to just do one activity at a time. For example, one week, pick someone and write down every time they do something positive that you would consider a “deposit”. Another week, you might intentionally try to make deposits yourself. Make a list of ideas, and check them off as you complete them. Write down what you notice about the emotional energy in yourself, your home, and your relationships as you do so.
❤ Jenny & Joe