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Why Avoiding Conflict Could Cost You Your Marriage
Is keeping the peace always the best option?
Have you ever heard someone say, “I am just trying to keep the peace.”
Maybe you are the person saying it.
When it comes to conflict, many of us gravitate towards the value of keeping the peace.
We like to smooth over the problem by minimizing the pain points or frustration we feel. We settle for putting a band-aid on the issue and happily manage to avoid ruffling too many feathers.
We are a conflict aversive bunch, and in the context of marriage—keeping the peace can seem like the most reasonable response.
Take a minute and ask yourself, Why does keeping the peace feel like the right thing to do?
As children, we were given models of how to interact with our spouse or significant other based on the family dynamic we grew up in.
When I ask people if they experienced a healthy model of conflict in their family, I am confronted primarily by two responses.
- First response—there was no model. I never saw conflict in my family, so I have no idea how to handle it.
- Second response—there was a lot of conflict. My family was constantly screaming, yelling, or hitting one another. I refuse to be like them.
So, if you are like 90% of the thousands of people I have asked this question of—you are looking at either no model because the conflict was hidden, or a model that was destructive because it manifested in verbal or physical violence.
Both scenarios are unhelpful.
So why does keeping the peace, or avoiding the conflict, seem like the best option?
Because most people don’t know any other way to deal with it.
Conflict involves risk and pain. When we don’t have healthy models to deal with the risk and the pain as it relates to conflict, we avoid it. The pattern gets set and we continue to “keep the peace.”
Let me try to explain it in a different way.
In my family, dad never did anything with tools. He was a great father but didn’t tinker around the house like the other fathers I knew. Because of that—I had no idea how to use tools. When I bought a house as a young adult, I was at a loss. I didn’t know which tools to buy and had to learn the handyman skills I needed as random house projects came up.
It was awkward to learn a new skill as an adult.
Difficult conversations are the same way.
Most of us grew up in homes that didn’t use the right tools to navigate through conflict. Because of that, we don’t know how to gather the tools we need or what they are even used for.
All of a sudden, you are an adult in relational conflict, and you find yourself unprepared.
You want to learn how to have conflict in a healthy way, but it is incredibly difficult when you don’t know which conflict management tools you need or how to use them.
Most people are overwhelmed by the scenario. They are left with what they feel like is the only real option—avoiding the conflict.
Why is avoiding conflict in marriage or a committed relationship a potential recipe for danger?
Relationships are interesting because they are not static. Either the relationship is strengthening—becoming richer and more meaningful, or it is becoming weaker.
Relationships don’t stand still and they don’t just happen. You have to work at them.
Real love involves sacrifice and discipline. Real love involves learning how to give and take. It also involves getting hurt.
Avoiding problems, or difficult conversations, thinking that it will be better for the relationship is a trap—and it ends up hurting both parties over time.
Relationships need to be getting stronger.
That means leaning into the problems and pain points—something that is only accomplished by having difficult conversations.
Without difficult conversations, you won’t discover what is standing between you and the other person. The chasm will grow and eventually you will find yourself drifting from that person emotionally, even physically.
Difficult conversations don’t feel good. You won’t walk out of them feeling happy or content. That is not the point.
The point of a difficult conversation is the fruit that it leads to. When you find out what the real issues are, deal with those issues, and get to the other side of the pain—you will see the relationship strengthen.
You have no control over the tools you were given as a child related to managing conflict. You do, however, have control over how you handle conflict in your life now.
Keeping the peace is often a mask for avoidance. Don’t avoid difficult conversations with those you love. Humbly and confidently lean into them.
These are just a few insights that will help you navigate those critical conversations in your life and career, but there’s so much more.
There are powerful tools that can really help you become more effective, and we at Ember Learning are here to help. With over 25 years of professional consulting in top businesses around the country, we want to share some of our top insights with you.
Download our FREE PDF “15 Ways to Turn Hard Conversations into Win-Win Dialogue” now!