A friend recently announced that she’d discovered the most powerful words to end relationship conflict.
I was admittedly skeptical. Each relationship is different, I reasoned. Each conflict has its unique characteristics. Besides, if there are universal words to end conflict they should be, “I’m sorry.” Or perhaps “I love you.” Or even, “I was wrong.” And those were not her words.
Nonetheless, I jotted her words down on a scrap of paper. I’d reread them from time to time when I was cleaning my office. Each time they felt strangely significant, though I didn’t know why. For months, the words kept coming back to me.
Finally, I tried them myself. In an actual conflict. The idea came to me unexpectedly, in the middle of arguing my point with someone.
And the results blew me away.
So I decided to make them my words for 2018. Each January, I choose a specific word or phrase to focus on for the entire year. A popular writer first gave me the idea to blog about it. In past years I have chosen words like encourage, pray, joyfully accept, savor, charitable and available.
Immediately, I knew these new words would be perfect for 2018.
What are these powerful words?
I’m guessing most of you are underwhelmed. I was.
At first, I objected to my friend’s assertion because it seemed insincere to agree with someone just to keep a relationship intact. I don’t want to seem patronizing. Besides, sometimes disagreeing, even challenging someone, is the most loving thing to do. I don’t want to lie just to keep the peace. I already struggle with being a people pleaser, so pretending to agree with someone seems to play into my weakness and sin.
But as I thought more about it, I realized that when I’m in conflict with someone (usually a member of my family), I don’t WANT to agree with them. I want to pinpoint what I disagree with, not affirm what I think is correct. I focus on their poor word choice. I get defensive at their accusations of “you never” or “you always.” I look for ammunition to mount my defense.
As part of my rebuttal, I start listing everything I can to support my case, ignoring any elements I agree with in their position. I question their motives while rationalizing my own.
In every conflict, I focus on what is wrong with the other person’s statements rather than agreeing with what is right.
Yet inevitably, I have found there is always some truth in the arguments of others.