How do you respond in moments of disappointment or frustration? What results are you creating? Are you managing conflict or increasing it?
It happens in a moment.
Feeling hurt or disappointed when his spouse walks in the door and says nothing, Mark sarcastically remarks “what, can’t you at least say “hello?” or quietly fumes and withdraws attention or affection later.
Melanie, angry and frustrated that a restaurant server shows up 15 minutes late, spouts, “nice of you to show up,” or glances at her watch, rolls her eyes and stomps away.
Melanie and Mark have every right to feel angry, disappointed, hurt, or frustrated. Feeling what they feel is not an issue. What they do with those feeling matters most.
Planning a response to those feelings in advance helps manage conflict. If Melanie and Mark face their feelings with self-compassion, and then get curious about their underlying needs, they discover the real issue. Knowing the real issue helps design the actions and create results.
Mark desires connection from his spouse and that need goes unmet during silence. Yet, sarcasm or withdrawing create the exact opposite result he seeks. They lead to disconnection. He increases his chances of receiving connection by being clear that he wants connection.
For instance, Mark might say, “When I hear you say nothing when you come in the door, I feel disappointed, I really need connection, will you please say, “hello?” (Notice he says, “I hear, I feel, I need…” rather than you did this, you made me feel, you need to…”) It helps to keep in mind that his spouse’s silence meets a need as well. It may meet a need for rest.
Melanie, wishing for respect, decreases the level of respect with snarky comments or eye-rolling. A simple acknowledgement of the issue usually helps clear the air. By being respectful, Melanie may more likely obtain respect.
Melanie may comment, “I noticed you arrived 15 minutes late, I am glad you are okay.” She may then ask “what happened, and what can I do to help you show up on time tomorrow?” She may certainly add that she feels frustrated. Melanie may be clear about consequences for arriving late. Being curious about the server’s needs, and clear about her needs and expectations, goes a long way in creating the respect she seeks.
What plan do you have for responding in moments of disappointment or frustration? Are you reacting by default? Conflict management begins with designing how you will show up. Advance practice increases confidence and helps creates the results you seek.