Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mastering Conflict: Stay In Charge Of Your Own “Buttons”

Are you able to stay with a disagreement and keep focused on the issue?

Do you find yourself having a hard time remaining calm?

Do you frequently take disagreements personally?

Do you find yourself reacting more strongly than you planned … maybe in response to old fights or old wounds?

Many people find that they have a hard time remaining calm and focused on one issue or problem when arguing or disagreeing with their spouse. Old “buttons” get pushed and it becomes hard to remain in the present. Feelings of hurt, disappointment, disrespect, being discounted or dismissed may emerge and lead to reactions and responses that have nothing to do with the issue at hand or to the gravity of the situation.

We all have to find ways to remain in charge of our own responses with our partners. This involves recognizing old tapes from relationships and patterns of the past that visit today. An awareness of old fears and hurts can be the first step toward helping to change this pattern.

Julia grew up with parents who had money to buy her lots of things; however, their time was limited and they had little interest in spending it with Julia. She developed the idea that she was not important and what was important to her, did not matter. Julia cannot remember any times that either her father or her mother showed up for school performances or even teacher’s conferences. Julia felt like she pretty much reared herself. When Julia and Troy fought, she often felt dismissed if he did not agree with her or her point of view. While she “knew” that he was entitled to have a different opinion, when he did, she felt discounted and it was not until she could tie that reaction to the frequent one that she received, the message that she often got from her parents of not being important, that Julia was able to calmly listen and talk with Troy when they disagreed.

Gerald’s dad had very high expectations of his son and Gerald was never able to meet those expectations. His father was highly critical, rarely positive or complimentary with Gerald. No matter how hard Gerald tried to please his dad, it never worked.

When Marcia had complaints about Gerald or something that he had done, Gerald would immediately become defensive and accuse her of being critical of everything that he did. He was unable to really hear Marcia, even when she was able to softly and gently ask for something different or try to talk about a problem. Gerald realized that he “heard” his father in all of Marcia’s complaints, even though they were very different. As he was able to separate his reactions from his relationship with his dad and his response to Marcia, he was able to talk with her about a present issue without revisiting the old “programmed in” responses.

Do you have “buttons” that get pushed from old past or wounds? Are you able to recognize them for what they are?

Please share your thoughts and ideas about this with us.

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