Working through Conflict


Working through Conflict, Not Around it: Turning Conflict into Resilience

Mental Health issues can seem complicated and confusing, especially to family members living with someone struggling with mental health issues. Within the complicated acronyms and terms, there usually lies some themes of lack of skills. The makeup the individual’s brain and past experiences, leave holes in the person’s resiliency, coping skills, and communication. Resilience, coping skills, communication….three things that can have a significant impact on well-being and ability to manage situations.

Resiliency in simple terms is  the ability to “bounce back” from an adverse situation.

Coping is the ability to manage, tolerate, and often problem solve a situation appropriately.

Communication is the ability to express a message.

We see a lot of people with (and without) mental health needs struggling with these three skills. Today there are a lot of instances of instant gratification, complicated relationships, and even more complicated conflicts. Failed attempts at communication can often sever relationships. The inability to exert the proper coping skills when dealing with heartbreak or loss, can often lead to a defeated attitude, or inability to “bounce back” and try again, thus affecting future relationships. This vicious cycle can take squash an individual’s spirit and slowly wears away future attempts at healthy communication and healthy relationships.

Small steps toward rebuilding these necessary skills, means empowering someone just enough to take a risk. Try that again! Go back to that person and ask for a “redo.” Go back to that person and try another conversation, etc.

Handling conflict or past failures in relationships means understanding that they were never completely failures to begin with. They were actually building blocks to developing skills, and more importantly, building resilience.  The instant gratification of clicking “like” or shooting off an emoji are more reactions rather than an expression of what we actually think and feel. Social media makes it easy to express oneself without much accountability, but coming out from the shadows of our phones and tablets and engaging in face-to-face contact with other humans is something we should strive for. These human interactions hold us accountable to read facial expressions, sit in awkward silence, deal with uneasy reactions, and navigate others’ emotions . This takes skill and patience that we develop with more practice. Exercising this social communication muscle can make a world of difference in relationships that we want to last longer than a “like” or “dislike.”

No life is without adversity or failure; but the difference between someone who can take the failures and turn them into learning experiences or the person who lays on the couch feeling defeated, may be the cheerleader in the corner saying “you got this, do it again.” Not everyone was raised with that small voice in their heads (parents, teachers, etc) and so later in life, they may need to turn to counselors or mentors to become the voice of encouragement and empowerment. Over time, with changed perspective and more and more success, the idea of taking on a conflict or challenging relationship doesn’t seem so daunting anymore. To be empowered to take control means to build resilience, cope with frustration, and take an active role in decision making for your life.  Find a cheerleader or be a cheerleader for someone,  take some deep breaths, and start asking questions. These conversations can be very challenging but equally rewarding! No one said it would be easy, but you’ve got this! We’re rooting for you!

Written by: Katie Lennon is a Clinical Counselor with ZimZum Consulting Collaboration. She has extensive experience working in acute care environments as well as outpatient services for individuals with Mental Health needs. She believes people start to heal when they feel heard and strives to live this motto in her work. 

Photo Credit: Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

CounselingJosi Garcia