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How many times – after an interpersonal conflict has occurred – have you said to yourself, “I wish I had said that or I wish I hadn’t said that”? It’s the sort of recrimination that stays with us and we can metaphorically kick ourselves about it – indefinitely. However, these sorts of regrets do not necessarily change our reactions the next time we are faced with the same person or type of situation. Rather, we often repeat patterns and proceed to get ourselves wrapped up in the same self-blame cycle.

It’s not easy to revisit our conflicts with the intention of figuring out how to change habits that have become entrenched over time. Though our repeated reactions may be ones we and others do not like about us, apologies and forgiveness have a way of assuaging some (but not all of) them. We then move on, with a sense that things are mended. However, the person(s) on the receiving end may reach a saturation point – often getting to that point before we face the fact that it’s no longer tolerable, forgivable, or just plain ‘okay’ to regurgitate time-worn antics.

If you want to begin to change a way of reacting that you have repeatedly apologized for (due to repeating a pattern of interacting that is not effective), here are some questions that will hopefully help the change process. I suggest you bring to mind actions, words, an attitude and so on that you demonstrate when in conflict and you know others don’t like about you – and that you don’t like about yourself – as you reflect on the following questions:

  • What do you repeatedly say or do when in conflict that you would like to change (giving also an example of a situation when this last occurred)?
  • What don’t you like about yourself when you said, did or acted like that (your answer to the previous question)?
  • What was going on in your head and heart as you said or did that in the situation you are revisiting here? What are you aware of that triggered your reaction?
  • What typically happens for you – internally – when you say, do or act the way you describe that occurred in this scenario? What reactions do you commonly hear from the other person?
  • In the same situation, what did you want to happen that didn’t? What did happen that has regretfully stayed with you?
  • Why do you suppose you repeat the words, actions, etc. such as those you described in this situation – even though you realize you later regret them?
  • If you were to stop repeating the words, actions, etc. you don’t like, what would you replace it/them with that might be more effective?
  • By doing so (your answer to the previous question), what may you achieve for yourself? For the other person?
  • As you revisit the conflict considered here, what is occurring to you about ways your answers apply to other conflicts? What variables may be different when it comes to other conflicts?
  • Having revisited a conflict and your reaction, what do you intend to do differently the next time you are faced with a similar situation?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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