Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Break ups come in all forms.

I'm going to flex my shiny new college degree here. It's relevant.

Conflict is a natural part of any relationship. Romantic, familial, platonic, even our relationship with our pets.

I'm a human being. I'm flawed. I make mistakes. Sometimes monumental, sometimes minor. But forgiving your friends of these flaws is part of bonding and building a relationship. Talking out those differences and even arguing are all ways that we learn about each other, find out our friends' true natures. But these conflicts can only be helpful when approached and handled correctly.

In one of my classes in the fall semester, Interpersonal Communication, we learned about conflict. One of the best parts of that class was actually this section. Two of the things always stick out in my mind, and they are about the lead up to an argument.

Know what you're arguing about. Fight about problems that can be solved.

First, know what you're arguing about. This may be more tricky than you think. Very recently another situation in my life was causing conflict and forcing me to be on the receiving end of some very frustrating stuff. But when you dig deeper, you find that the person wasn't even that upset about the topic at hand, but rather personal issues from another part of life. We often let things boil under our skin for a long time, for any variety of reasons. But sometimes we leave it under there for two long, and rather than get directed at the actual source of the problem, it gets directed at the person who happens to trigger us next. But when that happens, that person has no idea why they have become the target, you have no idea why you're actually angry at them and just unload a bunch of feels on someone who didn't cause them. You have all these feels! And those feels are valid! But are they even remotely related to the person you're unloading them on? Or say it is the person responsible for all your frustration, you still need to be clear about what you're having a conflict over. If you can't articulate it, you're not ready for conflict. Because you can't adequately explain to the other person what is wrong, and the other person then can't understand what the problem is.

Fight about problems that can be solved. If you are fighting with you significant other because her mother has never liked you and you think she's got it out for you, there's no solution there. She can't magically make her mother like you, she can't find a solution that will fix the situation. There is no solution to that problem, and arguing will only make the relationship more tense, pick away at it, potentially breaking it in the end. But perhaps the problem isn't actually about the mother's feelings (again, know what you're arguing about) but instead they're about how your significant other is handling the situation. Perhaps she isn't standing up to her mother, or perhaps she just allows her mother to berate you in front of the family because she's too afraid to speak up. THAT is a problem with a solution. The two of you can sit down and talk about how she's handling her mother, and if the conflict is fruitful, she might see what she's doing (or not doing in this case) is hurting you and agree that in the future she will stand up to her mother and make her voice heard. This not only will strengthen your bond with each other, it might even have the side effect of making the mother quieter about her displeasure. And whatever the situation is, have a solution in mind. Even if the other person doesn't agree to it, having a solution in mind creates a good place to become brainstorming a good compromise or a different solution. If the other person (or people I guess) see what you want to happen, what you see as a solution, they have a direction to work towards. Even if the end result wasn't what you had planned, there is still a much stronger possibility that a solution CAN be made.

Conflict is part of everything, both in our society, and in nature. Conflict is what powers evolution and progress, conflict creates war but it also creates difference and beauty. Pain, as much as we try to avoid it, is a natural part of our existence, and without it we cannot appreciate the good things we have. And conflict leads to better solutions because it makes it more likely we can please both parties rather than just one, when handled correctly. I'm only human, and I hurt those around me just like we all do. But I have always striven to be able to bridge the gap and reach a hand across. As one of my Professors, Dr. Hollenbaugh, said in another class I took in the fall, "Trying to understand each other, trying to get there together, to find that overlap is often more important than actually understanding." All relationships are built on the strength of trying to get there, whether or not we actually do. I disagree with almost everyone about something. Some people find me contrary and frustrating, but those who see past that see that I'm not being negative, I'm making sure that people have assessed all options. That they have thought of all possibilities. Many of my teachers in high school and professors in college have appreciated my constant need to play the devil's advocate. I'm not here to make you feel wrong or stupid, I simply disagree to try and make you look at something from a different perspective. I'm not even a negative person, but many people perceive me as one.  I guess that's ok. People have to be angry at someone. I guess that's me. But ask anyone close to me and they will tell you about how I always see the positive in people, even the ones I don't like. I do my best to help those that I can help rather than just watching them flail and burn. And sometimes they flail and burn me instead of taking the help, and I deal with that too. I don't let people say nasty things about others, I do what I can to try and keep that to a minimum. Even when discussing situations that hurt me and hurt my friends, I always try to remind people that the one everyone may be upset with has feelings and needs too, and that this is less likely some malicious attack and much more likely another hurt person trying to defend all those feels they have.

And we're back to feels. Of which I currently have a mountain of. Because sometimes there really is nothing we can do when we are not presented with any solution. I am only able to do so much, I'm not a superhero. I'd be a terrible one anyways, "with my laundry list of character flaws, mistakes I’ve made." (Thanks Tony.) I can't give you the moon if you don't tell me that's what you want. I'm not psychic, though I am intuitive. I am a lot of things. But those things can only do so much, and expecting more of me is just setting me up to fail. I would do anything for my friends, but first they have to tell me what they want me to do.

I'm human, and I love my flaws.

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