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Owning What’s Ours in Conflict

It seems that when we are in conflict we attribute all sorts of things to the other person that they don’t necessarily own. These are commonly assumptions about their motives for their words or actions that provoked a negative reaction in us. That is, we often believe the other person intended to undermine us or something important to us.

For varying reasons it seems that once we are triggered many of us go to this sort of blame place. We get caught up in being hurt or the victim of the other person’s bad behaviour and don’t consider how we also contributed to the conflict dynamic. These sorts of reactions can add to the damage evolving. However, catching ourselves before that happens can lead to discovering that there’s actually an opportunity to examine what’s really going on, including our part of the interaction. It’s also a time to consider that the attributions we are making about the other person might be more about us than her or him. These pre-emptive measures ultimately help to prevent unnecessary conflict.

Here are some questions to help deconstruct an interpersonal conflict you are in and consider what you own in it.

  • What is the conflict about? What did the other person say or do that provoked you?
  • For what reasons do you think she or he said or did that?
  • If the other person heard you describe her or his reasons, to what might she or he object?
  • What other possible reasons might the other person provide for what she or he said or did?
  • If you are right about your assumptions, what does that mean for you? For the relationship?
  • If you are wrong about your assumptions about the other person, what then?
  • How do you know for sure that the other person owns what you are attributing to her or him?
  • What do you own regarding your contribution to the conflict (such as what you said or did or how you did so)? What are your reasons for that?
  • What might the other person say you said or did that triggered her or him? What might the other person attribute to your reasons for provoking her or him?
  • What don’t you and the other person know about the other’s motives for provoking one another? What does your answer here add to what else you might own that you haven’t yet mentioned?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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