“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”
– William James
Conflicts. Unfortunately often times they are inevitable when it comes to relationships. Notice I said often, but not always. These can happen with our spouse/significant other, children, coworkers and yes even ourselves. Typically it leads to neither side listening to the other, arguing ensues and hurtful words are often said leaving both sides damaged psychologically and emotionally. In the end there are no winners and everyone loses something: themselves.
I know this all too well. My Dad and I, like many father/son relationships had its up’s and down’s. When things were going well it was wonderful and when things were not it wasn’t. Unfortunately those times when unkind words were said damaged our relationship. Our negative attitudes towards one another, having to be the one right and the unwillingness to listen and communicate clearly overshadowed everything. The sad thing is most of them I don’t remember most of them and it is the last one I wish I could forget.
During my senior year there was a night in September that we were arguing over something. I don’t even remember what it was about, but being 17 at the time, I’m sure I was living up to the old teenage mantra of not wanting to be told what to do anymore and thinking I knew everything. Words were said, feelings hurt, and our negative attitude towards one another once again left our relationship fractured. But for whatever reason, this time, after both sides had a chance to cool down, we both apologized and conveyed to one another a more positive attitude in trying to understand the perspective of the other which led to rebuilding our relationship at a deeper level that I don’t either of us had ever experienced with one another.
Without even knowing it, we had just experienced our first restorative practice. It was the first time, that I can remember, we had ever done something like this and I had the feeling we had turned a corner. Little did I know, my Dad would unexpectedly pass away the very next day due to a heart attack. I went through a period of blaming myself because I felt it was my arrogance at the time of having to be right led to what had happened. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon this quote in college that I began to forgive myself. I realized my Dad and I did have that moment where we deepened our relationship through exhibiting a more positive attitude when we spoke with one another. The fact that I was afforded this one moment is something I look back on with a smile and helped ease the pain of not having him here anymore.
From that point in my life, I have made it a point to try and live a life with more of a positive attitude when conflicts arise in order to deepen my relationships with others. I still have my ups and downs in consistently mastering this but isn’t that what being human is all about? I continue to work on things by recognizing when negative feelings begin to creep into my consciousness. Once I realize this I put my pride to the side and try to resolve the matter with a much more positive attitude. Just this simple adjustment has strengthened my relationship building skills. Remember that it is never too late for you to grow in this or any area of your life and can have profound effects on you and your relationships with others; just look what it did for me and my Dad….better late than never.
What does this quote mean to you and how can you apply today’s message towards developing relationship skills in your own life?