The bookstore shelves (or Amazon.com) are lined with helpful hints on handling difficult relationships and tips on how to handle conflict with someone important in our lives. These resources help address the reality that we don’t live on an island. Life is about relationships and relationships, even with the best intentions, will get complicated, strained, and a bit sloppy from time to time.
The important relationships in our home, workplace, and community are worth our best effort to keep them moving forward in a positive direction.
With this blog, we have often discussed the importance of understanding one another because of the cold reality that we each see the world as we are, not as it is. Deep understanding of each other’s point of view often leads to forgiveness and forgiveness brings about the opportunity for redemption even when relationships have become broken and shattered.
As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character an important principle to sustain healthy relationships is taking the long view in our day to day interactions with those important in our lives.
If we agree with most relationship experts and perhaps our own honest reflection of our life’s journey, we would see that most of us have a tough time with difficult conversations with those closest to us. One of the great dichotomies of life is that conflict of ideas and decisions in the home, workplace, and community can create real difficult situations, but yet confrontation, healthy discourse, and diversity of opinions are the life blood of organizations and families. (Take heart parents who argue frequently…research says our kids will be better able to think on their own because they constantly see their parents with different opinions which drives them to think for themselves because their parents certainly haven’t solved it for them. For those of you who have the “perfect” relationship with no disagreements or where that “one person” always gets his/her way, be forewarned, your kids may not be well prepared to handle life’s inevitable differences of opinions.)
If we take the time to reflect back over conflicts and difficult conversations, quite often we realized we made a mountain out of a mole hill, the issue that brought about the conflict was not the “real” issue, or it just was not a really big deal after all. Time is a great counselor because it gives us perspective.
One of the most difficult interpersonal challenges we all face is how to take a long term perspective in the heat of the moment.
There is always a gap between our situation and how we respond. Standing in that gap is our opportunity to take the long view in the heat of the moment. Principles such as understanding, responsibility, loyalty, and commitment, help us to rise above the heat of the moment and widen that gap to create a more constructive interaction to solve difficult problems.
When we chose to take the long view in the gap between our situation and our response, we take several steps towards sustaining health in our important relationships:
- We focus on the principle and not the person. If there was dishonesty in the situation, we focus on the breakdown of an important principle. We don’t just call someone a lying, selfish jerk. Addressing the principle without attacking the person opens the door for dialogue.
- Timeless and universal principles such as honesty, loyalty, and commitment give us a strong foundation to more effectively see others’ points of view. Our foundation on principle also helps keep our own emotions in check in the heat of the moment.
- We set an example for others to follow…our character stands in the gap between our situation and our response and principle based behavior is contagious.
We have tremendous potential for growth and development as we stand in the gap between our situation and our response with thoughts, decisions and actions based on principles such as loyalty, commitment, and perseverance. As we stand on timeless and universal principles, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to build healthy relationships that grow stronger rather than weaker with different perspectives and the conflict that results.