How I Used Conflict As An Opportunity To Connect – And It’s The Best Decision I Ever Made
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Conflict Can Create Opportunities For Connection
Did you know that conflict or saying “no” can create opportunities to connect?
I know that it sounds like an oxymoron because often the first thing that happens when we say “no” is that we feel resistance from the other person.
However, one of the best things in my life happened all because a guy said “no” to me and I used it as an opportunity to connect…
When I saw Melis, it was love at first sight.
He was tall, blonde with beautiful blue eyes. So I sat in his desk during social studies writing him notes.
One day, I felt brave enough to leave this note in his desk: “You want to go out on a date…?”
He wrote back and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t take you out on a date because you aren’t a Christian.”
I couldn’t believe his reply.
“How does he know I’m not Christian?” I thought. “What’s so great about YOU anyway?”
I felt irritated… but also intrigued. Who was this God?
And who was this guy?
Image: Melis and I as high school sweethearts
How Conflict Caused Me To Find Hope, Meaning And Love
What Melis didn’t know was that I was looking for hope.
At only twelve years old, I remember walking home from Sunday school shaking my fist at heaven telling God,
“I hate this place! Why did you make me!”
But now, I was curious about his God.
And so we continued to write notes. He encouraged me to start reading the Bible but I had no idea what it was talking about. I just had more and more questions.
Finally, out of absolute frustration, I got down on my knees in my barnyard and cried out to God:
“You promised that if I would seek you, I would find you. Where are you!?”
And at that moment, I sensed God’s presence. It was like He was saying to me, “I am here. You are mine. I am yours. I have loved you with a great love. I have made you for a purpose.
That night changed everything. And I began to change from the inside out.
(Oh, and we got married a few years later =;)
All because a guy said “no” to me and instead of staying offended (because let’s be honest, I was a little offended at first), I used that conflict as an opportunity to understand who Melis was and why his faith was important to him.
How Conflict Creates Opportunities In Relationships
After reading this story, you might be thinking, “Ann, that’s a nice story, but I still don’t really understand how setting boundaries or conflict can actually create opportunities to connect?!”
Here’s the thing, conflict is the doorway to intimacy.
So, instead of thinking of conflict as a negative thing, I want you to begin to think of conflict as “into-me-you-see”…
A chance to connect.
You know, this is the very first marriage lesson Melis and I learned and it was from the book Making Love Last Forever by Gary Smalley.
Honestly, when I first read that statement, I thought, “That can’t be possible!”
And yet, I’ve since discovered that it’s true.
Also, according to Smalley, when I tell you what I need or what I want, I’m communicating at a deep level because sharing my needs and wants makes me vulnerable.
However, if the other person doesn’t like the boundary I set, then maybe we need to negotiate it. In the end, what happens is a conversation where two people are sharing vulnerably what their needs and wants are, which creates an open door to develop a closer relationship.
And this sharing is the opportunity for connection that can come out of conflict.
The Key To Creating Connection Through Conflict
The key to using conflict as an opportunity to create intimacy is all about how we talk to each other. So if we can talk and listen to each other in the midst of conflict in a way that creates understanding, then we can develop a stronger connection.
Because, this may surprise you, but the goal of communication is NOT to agree, nor is it to be right (read our series about needing to be right here) …
Instead, as Smalley says in his book The DNA Of Relationships, “Communication is understanding.”
So if we can listen and talk to each other in a way that creates understanding, then we create connection.
In a nutshell, this is how conflict is an opportunity to connect in your relationships (another great resource about connecting is Danny Silk’s book Keep Your Love On!).
How Can You Use Conflict To Create Connections?
I want to encourage you to practice the mindset shift that conflict can lead to closer relationships.
Write this down on post-it note and stick it on your mirror or your fridge:
Conflict = into-me-you-see
So as moments of conflict happen during your week, first, practice listening deeply to the other person so you can understand them better. And second, practice expressing what you need and what you want clearly and respectfully to give the other person the opportunity to respond to you.
Now, if you’ve found this post helpful and you’d like a practical tool to help you set to express your wants and needs more clearly, then download this freebie.
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How have you used conflict as an opportunity to connect? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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