I think that one of the aspects I enjoy most about the profession of social work is that of conflict resolution. We, as human beings, waste so much time and energy feeling angry and resentful. I gently validate people’s feelings of anger and then challenge them to consider how it serves them to stay angry. What are the needs that are being met by staying angry?
Choosing to forgive another person or even oneself does not mean that the offending behavior was okay, but rather, that the person is moving on. Some of my most powerful lessons have come during painful times. They are the ones I do not forget. Couple this with the belief system that people are doing the best they can with what they know at any given point in time can help one to adopt an attitude of forgiveness.
If instead of “conflict” resolution, we elect to use the word “clarification,” this moves parties away from a win-lose, right-wrong, or good-bad stance. Instead, it becomes all about “the fit” as well as creating effective and efficient communication. People can be too quick to draw conclusions, and it is often prudent to seek additional information for clarification.
Regarding the notion of compromising, I stress the importance of compromising where one can remain true to oneself, and at other times agreeing to disagree. It then becomes not about right or wrong, but rather, what is right or wrong for the individual. I like using elements of CBT, DBT, and Mindfulness. I essentially use one or all of these concepts with each of my clients.
I especially like that part of DBT that effectively diffuses anger. I explain to my clients that in order to utilize this approach, it requires in the moment:
- to give up the need to be right
- to let go of the need to have the last word
- to let go of the belief that life should somehow be fair
In the moment, the only goal is to diffuse the situation. If the individual is important enough, one might ask to revisit what just happened as soon as everyone is calm. I have even taught children to use this approach with a parent who has anger management problems.
And finally, I love this opening phrase: “Help me to understand….” This can be attached to the beginning of any “why-question” and lead to far less defensiveness. Oprah said, “People show you who they are–believe them” (YouTube.) And yet, we set out to change them because that is what we do.
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.