I’m Right – You’re Wrong

Understanding how to manage power struggles effectively helps move away from needing to put winning an argument ahead of saving a relationship. “Right fighting” is the term psychologists use to describe the process of arguing to prove “who” is right in a heated debate. These hostile conflicts have been growing in frequency and intensity in many homes for the past several years. Families have been in bitter disputes to attack their relative’s beliefs about political, cultural, and pandemic related issues, often shattering the relationship in the process.

As reported to Reuters News Service: “My son specifically told me, ‘You are no longer my mother, because you voted for that guy’.” Our last conversation was so bitter I am not sure we could ever reconcile… the damage is done. It is sad. There are people not talking to me anymore, and I’m not sure that will change.”

The fight to prove what someone believes to be best for millions of people in the country has rippled over into private homes—separating mothers from daughters, brothers from sisters, and fathers from sons—making people so angry they are willing to permanently end a relationship to prove the point. What can a life coach do to turn the conversation away from attacking and toward connection?

Many have never seen such high levels of open hostility in their family, and it appears to be getting worse. What is causing these continual arguments? COVID fears appear to have magnified normal family conversations over cultural, religious, and political topics. Many Americans were already feeling overloaded from the pandemic, and the continual stress of debating cultural issues makes them feel like they are drowning in bad news. When this happens, it leaves a person feeling very alone while facing an uncertain future to make major decisions. This “decision fatigue” leads to an overload of emotion.

Here are some common emotional reactions to conflict.

  1. Anger

This can lead to violence or impulsive decisions. People who feel violated in a debate may turn to dumping volcanic levels of anger at someone or something to find relief for the pressure inside. Verbal explosions will be common. This can lead to devastating decisions, impulsive rage, or using the wrong words in front of the wrong people and losing credibility or worse, losing a family member. This can happen in men or women, young or old, but it is usually seen in more extroverted personalities who tend to blow up. The most dangerous situation is when an angry group of people get together to express their anger because all that rage does not lead to constructive actions. Venting rage in a relationship is like pouring gasoline on a fire. It explodes and makes things worse.

  • Anxiety or Apathy

This is a more serious reaction since it can lead to everything from distress to the early stages of depression or panic. Stuffing emotions inside is like burying them alive, so they just keep building up; yet, instead of blowing up and out, they blow in. This leads individuals to feel emotionally numb and often can cause them to commit a series of very quiet, but very harmful self-destructive acts—eating for comfort, drinking to numb the pain, gambling, watching porn, hooking up with the wrong partner to try and forget about their fears of the future, or just refusing to answer the phone and closing the mini-blinds and checking out on life like a hermit hiding in a dark cave. Darkness will not make the fear go away, but it may lead to feeling like an emotional prisoner with no hope of escape.

  • Acceptance

The healthiest choice to manage conflict triggered by cultural debate is acceptance. Learning to take responsibility for what is happening at your house, instead of debating about the White House, is how to solve conflict. You cannot change an entire country, but you can manage the pressures of your own life. This is where coaches can shine. Guiding a person away from the conflict toward relationship connection is the goal. My mom always taught me to pray instead of panic, and the same is true in high-conflict situations. Find comfort and strength in the spiritual values of peace and connection by listening to other people with compassion, instead of ignoring what they are saying to win a point. You can make your relationships more important than winning an argument. It takes confidence in our faith to live out what the writer of Hebrews challenged: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:23–24). By shifting our priority from winning an argument to making and preserving the connection with another person, we model our faith in ways that may lead to greater conversation about why we are choosing the path of a peacemaker. This shift could spark a discussion about faith in Christ, which is transformational.

Dwight Bain, MA, is the Founder of the LifeWorks Group in Winter Park, Florida. He helps people rewrite their stories through strategic change and is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. Since 1984, Dwight has helped thousands of people across America as a Keynote Speaker, Certified Leadership Coach, Nationally Certified Counselor, and a Critical Incident Stress Management expert. He is a trusted media resource on managing major change and has been interviewed on hundreds of radio and television stations, has been quoted in over 100 publications, and is the author of Destination Success: A Map for Living Out Your Dreams. See more at: www.dwightbain.com

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