Question: This year I will begin full-time RVing with multiple members of my family. With so many people living in a small space, I anticipate an occasional conflict may erupt. Do you have suggestions for positive ways to handle this type of situation?
This is an important topic and thank you for raising it. Conflict occurs in every aspect of our lives, and it is important to understand how to handle it constructively. Surprisingly, conflict can enhance relationships, rather than damage them. In this article, I’ll cover how to deal with the conflict that will inevitably arise at some point in your journey. We all need to know how to constructively control our temper and emotions and to keep the peace.
Take Time Out
When conflict occurs, our temptation is to try to resolve it immediately. However, that is usually a mistake.
When I asked couples in marital counseling, “Has an argument or discussion between the two of you ever gone well with one or both of you was upset at the same time?” I am treated with astonished faces. The response is a unanimous “No!”
In fact, for most of us, the wrong time to attempt to constructively resolve conflict is in “the heat of the moment” when we are upset and angry. It often spells disaster for even the best attempts at conflict resolution. Take time and walk away from the situation for a while. Give yourself a chance to calm down and plan how you want to approach the matter. Then, when you are prepared and calm, revisit the situation to work it out.
During your time away from the conflict, do not focus on it. Ruminating about it will likely only upset you more. Rather, take that opportunity to distract yourself by thinking and focusing on something else. Doing something physical can be a great help as well. Busy yourself with a task or go outdoors for a walk or run. Focus on the beauty in your life rather than its troubles. Do not spend this time thinking about the conflict.
Guard Against All Or Nothing Thoughts
When we are upset with someone, it is easy to allow ourselves to focus on their negative qualities. As an example, we may think to ourselves: “He is so selfish” or “She is so stuck in her ways.” However, each of us is made up of many qualities; some positive and others less so. When we stick with that all-or-nothing focus, we do a disservice to the complex individual with whom we are involved.
Simply said, none of us are that consistent. While we can all be selfish or stuck in our ways at times, no one consistently exhibits only one quality, positive or negative. This is important to remember when thinking of your virtuous, generous or flexible self as well. After taking your break, it can be extremely helpful to spend time thinking about some of the positive qualities of the other person.
Show (or Think) Gratitude
When you are busy taking time away from your conflict, it can also be helpful to think of reasons to be grateful to your conflict partner. Perhaps the “selfish” child with whom you argued gave up the last piece of pie at dinner last night or helped you reach something on a high shelf. Perhaps the “stuck-in-her-ways” grandmother stayed up late to make that recipe you love or gave up her favorite television program so that you could watch your favorite show. Again, seeing the multiple dimensions of your adversary can prepare you to work out the issue in a positive manner.
Be Willing To Compromise
When you do return to the subject of your conflict, prepare yourself to enter the conversation willing to hear what your opponent has to say. Furthermore, be willing to compromise your position or accommodate their requests. Remember, when your opponent approaches you with a proposed compromise, they are indicating their own willingness to give something up. It’s important to respect and appreciate this position and attempt to meet it halfway.
Resolve Family Conflicts
These are only a few suggestions for how to control your temper and manage your negative emotions. However, they can go a long way toward improving your relationships with those closest to you. While these suggestions are important in any situation, they are especially essential when living in close quarters.
Diane M. Berry
Diane is a therapist in private practice who works extensively with clients on stress management and relationship issues. She and her family are also avid RVers. Her articles are meant to provide information of a general nature and are not intended as specific psychological advice or to take the place of consulting with a health care professional.
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