So when you have a small conflicts or misunderstanding or are holding a small grudge, what do you do? Do you bring up the situation? Do you mention you forgive the person? How do you act the next time the same situation occurs? As I was thinking about this, I thought back to something that happened to me recently. I thought I'd share since hearing a story is easier than reading about hypotheticals. Also, I also use the story to point out that forgiveness isn't a destination and even I, who tours around with a film and a talk on how to forgive, am continually learning and growing to be better forgiver.
I'll be brief with my story. Here it is - someone didn't show up to an event I hosted, which hurt my feelings. I shared my feelings and, at first, he did not react terribly well. However, shortly thereafter, he called to apologize for the reaction. We met and talked more about the situation. During the conversation, he said something along the lines of, “It's okay that you felt that way.” This was not the first time this sentiment had been expressed, so I did not respond well. I raised my voice and said, “I know it's okay that I have these feelings. I don't need your permission to have feelings. I'm telling you how I'm feeling.”
Immediately I could see this was not the best way to respond. He adopted a defensive stance and I assessed that the conversation could easily devolve into an unhealthy argument. I decided to quickly rephrase and use the “sandwhich method” - putting the negative in the middle of two positive comments. So, I expressed gratitude for the times he has sought to understand my feelings, then I stated that what he said made me feel like he was saying he was granting permission, which aggravated me, and I closed by complimenting on what a good listener he has so often been. That approach resulted in a more positive response. His body language immediately shifted and he expressed what was meant by the comment. We had a brief, calm discussion and then moved on.
So, what do I learn from this story and hope you can take away from it?
- In these smaller moments of conflict, it is always good to find a way to express yourself and your feelings. Keeping things bottled up will not be helpful.
- Remember that the other person is a human being with feelings, too. Be positive in your approach.
- Your desire is likely to maintain your relationship with that person, so keep that in the forefront of your mind and in how you speak. Someone is more likely to respond to, “I really value your friendship. When you say/do X, it makes me feel Y. Can we talk about it?” than “You always do this and it's pissing me off!”
If you are a person of faith, I find it it helpful to keep these situations in prayer. The Holy Spirit can help you choose the right words and be witness to the conversation.
What about you? What have you found to help in these smaller moments of conflict?