In my last blog, I gave three tips that could make you a better partner or friend. The last tip was to become better at conflict resolution. I mentioned, that conflict resolution is not easy to master. I also wrote that I should do a separate blog post just on that subject; which is what I’m doing now.
This subject is split into three parts because it is vast. This blog will deal with taking responsibility for emotions. The next one will tackle how we communicate our emotions. The last one will focus what goals we should have for conflict resolution in close relationships.
The purpose of this blog is to, (1) look inside and recognize emotions, and (2) address emotional patterns that can cause conflicts in our relationships. This blog will NOT teach you how to win all your arguments with your partner or how to avoid conflicts. All relationships have conflict! Yet, I hope it will point you in the direction of how you can get through conflicts in a constructive way.
“Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind” (I Corinthians 14:20).
Baby, it’s not you—it’s me
First, I would like to introduce you to a mindset that was new to me: It’s not you—it’s me. Yes, it is a cheesy breakup line, but it is also a good rule of thumb in conflicts. Why? Because it states that we should always take responsibility for the emotions we harbor.
(I know, some extreme cases of relationships force emotions due to violent behavior. Those type of conflicts are not the type this blog will address.)
It goes without saying, that in order for us to deal with emotions we must first recognize that we have them. Yet, it is easier for some people to recognize how they feel, than for others. People who find it hard to word their emotions can track thoughts and verbal messages sent to others. Monitoring thoughts and messages can us help explore exactly what emotions we are feeling.
Sometimes we also need to look at our physiological reaction to communication with people. Raised heart rate, increased body temperature, and tightened jaw can indicate anger, fear, or even being in love.
Influence versus control
Once we have recognized an emotion the next step is to determine what it was influenced by. Emotions are often a mixture of the actions of another person and our interpretation of that specific action. Thus, emotions are INFLUENCED by other people’s actions, not CONTROLLED by their actions. E.g. When someone’s action affects us, we can either interpret it as nice (we feel appreciative) or interpret it as rude (we feel offense.)
“People don’t make us like or dislike them, and believing that they do denies the responsibility that each of us has for our own emotions” (Adler & Proctor, 2014, p. 132).
This process is important to understand. When a friend or a partner does something, what we feel about it is directly linked to what we think about the action.
“I feel […] when you do […]”
It is important to recognize the process of action that influences emotions. When we feel hurt by an action we should be careful not to jump to conclusions or accusations. Conflicts are much easier to resolve when we don’t assume that the other person is trying to make us feel bad.
The process from action to emotion is easy to track when we are aware of it. It leads me to the conclusion; it is not you—it’s me because I am always in control of my own emotions.
In my next blog (coming soon) I will tackle how we communicate emotions.