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What's the First Step to Solving Any Relationship Conflict?

01/04/2014 12:18 BST | Updated 31/05/2014 10:59 BST

Let's face it, when you bring two people together for any period of time, sooner or later there is going to be a difference of opinion.

I've not yet heard of two people anywhere who always think the exact same thing, at the exact same time with no variance whatsoever.

..and so there is going to come a point in time where you have different points of view.

When it comes to relationships between a man and a woman the opportunity for a difference of opinion comes up more frequently than in relationships between men or between women, mainly because we're so fundamentally different inside.

We think differently.

We have different motivations.

We feel differently.

We have different priorities.

We have different fears, worries and concerns.

We have different approaches.

We have different meanings for the same words.

In fact, it's a wonder that we agree on anything!

But it's not just relationships between men and women that have problems!

Though they might not happen as often, these can happen in relationships between women and between men...it's natural when you bring two different people together.

Now, if we lived in a culture where we all enlightened and took the approach of accepting and respecting that we all have slightly different points of view, without taking it personally or allowing it to cause conflict in our relationships...we'd be fine. Unfortunately, this isn't often the case.

Often when someone has a different point of view there's an assumption that they believe we're 'wrong' and so we defend our point of view to show them otherwise. Or otherwise we feel that they just don't understand our point of view, so we take it upon ourselves to explain (sometimes forcefully and in a lot of detail!) what we mean, because if they understood it, they'd agree with us, right?

The downside of this, as I'm sure you've experienced at some point is that a difference of opinion can quickly switch to a debate, conflict, argument...or worse!

In my experience, knowing the one thing that can help reduce, or resolve conflicts in any and all kinds of relationships is pretty helpful...because you can use it any time a difference of opinion comes up, to prevent the conflict before it even begins.

When you have a relationship between two people, it's very unlikely that at all times these two people are going to think and believe exactly the same thing. When they've got differences of opinion sometimes that can lead to challenge because it can feel like, "I've got to convince them that my opinion's right" or "They're trying to convince me that their opinion is right".

How can we find what works for us, in our relationship when our two different opinions seem poles apart? It can cause challenges, it can cause arguments, it can cause rifts in relationships, so having a way that you can approach situations like this and a little bit of insight that might help you in these difficult situations is really crucial.

So what can turn a potential conflict into a meaningful communication?

When these difficulties come up, when these challenges happen it's so important to remember that you're on the same team. It might sound simple, but remembering this one thing can change everything. Because when you have a difference of opinion, all of a sudden it can seem that you're on different sides.

It's easy to think, "They believe this, and I believe that, but there's no way that the two can co-exist. I need to convince them that my way is right, or I need to help them understand my side of it, because if they understood we'd be back on the same side again."

What can tend to happen is that this often degenerates into feeling like you're not really together; you're on opposite sides.

So it's really important to understand that no matter what happens, and what differences of opinion you might have that you're on the same team.  You want to move in the same direction, you have the same goal in mind: You both want to have a great relationship where you can both feel happy as it makes life more enjoyable. If you remember that you're on the same team it can help to resolve these situations in a much more amicable way.

Think about a really great sports team. How do they approach each other? They encourage each other, they support each other, they help each other wherever possible. The thing about a really great team is that not every single team mate is in exactly the same spot on the pitch at exactly the same time. If you were on a football team and every single player was in the exact spot on the same field at the same time, the team wouldn't be very effective. So it's OK that the team members are sometimes in different positions, that they've got different perspectives, that they can see the game from slightly different angles, that's where the strength in the team comes from, that's where you can get the best out of your relationships by understanding the team can work better when they look at the different points of view and figure out the right course of action together.

Also what can happen is that if one of the team is scoring all of the goals, they can get a bit annoyed about the fact that the other team members aren't scoring at all and they're having to do 'all the hard work'. But if the other team member is the goal keeper, protecting your goal from the other team, they have a key position to play, even if it's not doing the same thing that you are. If every member of the football team was trying to score goals, but no one was protecting your goal from the other side, the team would be less likely to win the match.

The important thing to remember with a team is that everyone has their role to play, everyone's part is important and everyone doesn't need to think exactly the same thing at exactly the same time and be in exactly the same position. When you realise that you're on a team, you can start to work together to resolve any challenges. You can start to work together to try and understand the other person's point of view and see if their perspective of the game could actually help you rather than hinder you. Is there a mutual perspective, taking into consideration both points of view that would actually benefit both of you better?

When you start to behave and work like a team, the key word being together, you can work it out. Just remembering that you're on the same team, that the other person isn't out to get you, they're not out to prove that you're wrong, it's you and them together working it out in a way that works best for both of you, that can totally transform the way that you see challenges, and the approach you take towards resolving them.

The thing to look for in order to use this little gem of insight is for the moments when you feel triggered.

Where someone has said or done something (or not said or not done something) that has triggered a reaction in you. You're feeling something. Angry, annoyed, frustrated, unloved, unappreciated, unheard, unimportant...whatever the emotion is, you can feel it.

At that point, when you're feeling that emotion, that's the moment to remember that you're on the same team.

You're on the same side. You're in it together.

When you remember that, you can work with them to resolve the situation, rather than feeling that they're against you.

That small shift in perspective can make all the difference and totally change how you approach a situation, and in return how the other person approaches you. ...and that makes everything easier to resolve.

So now I'd like to hear from you. How do you feel when you remember that you're on the same team? How are they responding to you when you take this approach? Does the conflict feel easier to resolve? Are you working together more than usual? Do you think it will help in the future? Has it brought up more questions? I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please leave me a comment below, or drop me an email and let me know what you think. Have you had any questions or comments that have come up as a result of reading this?

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Finally, if you'd like some free tips and advice on how to improve your relationship situation, pop over here now and check out our free video series "The First Steps to Transforming Any Relationship"

Wishing You Love,

Claire x

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