Sometimes, our friendships, family relationships, or interactions with colleagues can turn adversarial. Maybe they’ve hit a rough patch and are taking things out on you. Maybe you were super stressed out and said something harsh. Or maybe it’s no one’s fault. But seeing an amicable relationship becoming toxic ☢️ is no fun. 👎
Good news! Every day is an opportunity to re-evaluate, refresh, and do things differently. Here are five tips from behaviorists, researchers, and experts for moving forward when a relationship is on rocky road.
1. take a deep breath
The first and best ❗️ thing to do in moments of conflict is to separate yourself (as best as you can) from your emotions. 🤬🥵😢
Easier said than done, right? Well, consider starting with slow breathing.
Controlled breathing produces “increased comfort, relaxation, pleasantness, vigor and alertness, and reduced symptoms of arousal, anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion,” researchers say—all of which helps you get a handle on your feelings. Once you’re calm,🧘♀️ then you can initiate a conversation.
2. approach the person privately
When conflict is public, it complicates matters. People are embarrassed and may freeze up or walk away. Plus, it can start the rumor mill, encourage peel to take sides and form alliances, and make everyone who’s witnessing the interaction feel awwwwwwkward. 🤭
Instead, seek a private meeting (or video or phone call) with the person. Let them know you want to get to a better place, according to meditation expert Michael Mamas.
“Keep your focus not on the details of the conflict or disagreement but on cultivating a friendly relationship,” he counsels.
What’s key is engaging the person in a real conversation. Email and chat are great, but for patching up a damaged relationship, they fall short. Aim for face-to-face conversation or a video call if at all possible.
3. be transparent about your feelings
Honest communication means a real give-and-take, where you share your thoughts and feelings openly and actively listen 👂 to what the other person has to say. Sometimes, sharing your feelings means dredging things up that are hard for you to discuss. 🥺 But relationships become stronger 💪 when both parties let their guards down, Dr. Douglas LaBier writes in Psychology Today.
“Through transparency, you reveal your inner self, your true experience of who you are,” he says.
Zen mode … activated.
4. define what success looks like for both of you
Different views of a situation can spark an avalanche of misunderstandings, anger, and hurt feelings. 😩You may think you know what the other person wants but, in reality, have no idea what they want.
Asking (and listening to) what the other person wants and needs creates trust on both sides of the relationship—whether it’s platonic, romantic, or economic. It’s important for both of you to lay out what a successful outcome looks like and how you can help each other get there. 🤩
“The fast track to trust is taking a truly vested interest in someone else’s success,” says Amanda Prochaska in a blog she wrote about turning adversaries into collaborators.
5. aim for mutual benefit
The ideal outcome to an adversarial relationship? Shift the tone from a fiery 🔥 to a friendly 😊 tone. Take a collaborative approach, where both parties support each other—and maintain respect regardless of what’s happening.
Instead of viewing it as “you versus them,” view it as “us versus the problem.” Pro tip: Married couples 🥰 who collaborate to solve conflicts last longer, Dr. LaBier points out.
The secret 🤫 may be in turning your attention away from your ego. When you’re fixated on what’s best for you in the here-and-now, you might “win” the argument. But you lose out on a chance to improve your relationship.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash