Conflict does not have to be something you try to avoid at every turn. In fact, we hope conflict becomes something you embrace! Instead of turning away from conflict to protect your relationships, what if you engaged with moments of conflict and build connection in both your personal and professional relationships?
We will inevitably be in conflict with someone we love. For years, this did not stop me from doing everything in my power, which was not much, to avoid confrontation. I felt conflict meant something within the relationship (whether platonic or romantic) was going terribly wrong.
I held this belief until one of my professors, in undergrad, made the claim that ‘healthy conflict breeds intimacy’. Now, I must be honest and let you know that when I first heard this statement, I scoffed at it under my breath. After all, this had not been my experience with conflict. As he continued to use this phrase, I soon realized I was missing a keyword within his proclamation, “HEALTHY conflict breeds intimacy”.
Because we are human, we unalterably cannot escape confrontation in relationship. However, we do have full control over how we approach conflict. Within the throws of conflict, we need to learn how to embrace and deal with conflict in healthy manners, rather than trying to avoid the purposeful and healthy role conflict has within relationships.
So if healthy conflict breeds intimacy within a relationship, what can we do to embrace this? Thankfully there are countless beneficial actions to generate intimacy within our conflicts. Below are 3 actions to grow intimacy through conflict I have found helpful over the years:
Sit with hard and uncomfortable emotions
We may want to rush through the emotions for the sake of solving the conflict quickly. However, this often results neither party feeling understood and prolongs the problem for days, weeks, and perhaps even months. We must allow ourselves to feel our emotions before trying to “solve” the problem. When we take the vulnerable step of sitting in our emotions, we can then fully express what’s on our hearts within the conflict. We also allow our friends/partner to see our authentic selves. When we take the time to be authentically seen, intimacy will thrive.
Hone the skill of being an active listener
Brenè Brown's book Braving the Wilderness mentions, “I believe one of the most courageous things to say in an uncomfortable conversation is “Tell me more”. Within conflict, we need to spend just as much energy actively listening as we are expressing. Our whole being needs to be present and invested within the conflict.
Drop the desire to be right
When we desire to be right, we are no longer in a conflict but an argument. Arguments do not breed intimacy or relational growth because the goal is to prove our perspective, not holistic understanding. Instead of going into a conversation to prove your point, enter the conflict with a genuine desire to learn and understand.
Embrace Conflict for Greater Connection
Hopefully you are beginning to see how conflict can be a powerful opportunity for growth and intimacy. Truly seeing the other human and being seen. By learning how to embrace conflict, we can strengthen our personal and professional relationships, and become more connected to the people around us. Remember, embrace the difficulty to create intimacy.
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