Wedding planning sounds so exciting. You will be making plans and creating your perfect day. Then reality sets in and you realize that much of your planning time is absorbed by dealing with conflict.
Your conflict may be on a personal level. What type of wedding do you and your groom really want – large or small, rustic or elegant?
You may be feeling a conflict between your dreams and the reality of wedding planning (mostly related to budget. Ugh!!)
Or you may experience conflict with those around you concerning all the above or their ideas of what your wedding day should look and feel like. (Ugh!!, Ugh!!)
Whatever conflicts you face as you plan for your big day, you need to be able to resolve them, put them behind you and think positively. So how do you do that? Read on…
Pause and Focus – The Conflict is Not What You Expected
Sometimes it is more than the issue at hand that creates the tension. It may be how you feel physically – tired, stressed, or hungry.
Breathe. Take at least 3 deep breaths – in through your nose and out through your mouth – to calm yourself.
If possible, resolve your needs before you deal with the conflict. If you can’t take care of the physical, complete a quick mental assessment. You are more prepared to deal with an issue on a non-emotional level or to postpone the discussion until you are ready and able to give it your appropriate attention when you consciously recognize that your emotions may be inflamed by these physical conditions.
Step Back to Gain Perspective of the Conflict
While this will be difficult to do, after all, it is your wedding, step back and view the conflict from a neutral perspective at a greater distance.
Are you really upset because one of your bridesmaids does not like the dresses you have selected -the issue at hand – or are you displacing your anger – you had a big disagreement this morning with your mom about the venue location?
Make sure you address what is really bothering you and with the appropriate person. Identify the actual issue that is bothering you and don’t get caught up in smaller (to you at the time) decisions when there is a larger one looming that you need to address before moving on. When you have a large impending issue, smaller decisions seem to take on a negative tinge that is unrelated to them. For example, resolve the venue issue with your mom before you tackle the dress decision. And you may need to delve deeper into your thoughts and feelings. Are you upset because of the venue or because you are feeling unsupported by your mom?
Let the little stuff go (for now) and care about yourself enough to address the important matters before you move forward. You will find your perspective and decision making will be more positive.
Nonverbal Communication – Conflict Thrives
Did you know that as much as 95% of our communication is nonverbal? Facial expressions as small as a raised eyebrow, hand gestures, and body language are interpreted by the “listener” and often have more influence than the words you speak. Be aware of your nonverbal communications to ensure you are sending the same message nonverbally that you want to be received.
When you are communicating electronically, remember that that 95% of communication we have come to rely on is not available. Your written words and even phone messages can and often are interpreted differently by the receiver. If you detect tension, go back and rethink how the message was received before the conflict escalates based on perceived emotions rather than content of the issue.
Avoid Behaviors That Accelerate The Conflict
There are some behaviors that we are not even be aware of that are perceived as negative.
- Criticism – attacking the other person’s character. Stick to the issue at hand.
- Showing contempt – insults and nonverbal hostility such as eyerolling or smirking.
- Stonewalling – shutting down and refusing to communicate.
- Defensiveness – seeing yourself as a victim.
Show Empathy – Conflict Vanishes
Perhaps the most important communication skill we can acquire is the ability and willingness to understand how the other person feels. You do not have to agree but recognizing how they feel is an important step to communication. It allows the other person to feel like they are heard, and their opinion is appreciation. Saying something as simple as “I can understand why you believe __________ is what we should do.” can go a long way to resolving the issue at hand.
You Are Responsible For Yourself – That’s All
When you make a mistake, whether it is in actions or a decision, sincerely apologize. This is not a sign of your weakness, rather it is self-awareness and integrity and will likely hasten a successful resolution. If needed make sincere and timely amends. If it was behavior related, make a mental plan of how you can avoid this response in future conflicts.
Being assertive does not mean being overbearing or domineering. It simply means being self-confident about your wants and needs, while still being considerate of the rights, needs, and wants of others.
Ask for what you need and be ready to say no to what you do not want or need. Be open to negotiation and compromise.
The first step may be in deciding what you want – not always easy when wedding planning. If you don’t know what you want, don’t expect those around you to know either.
Passive – weak in setting boundaries, especially if it is something you care deeply about. Perhaps you dislike roses and when your maid of honor shows pictures of her favorite rose bouquet, you respond “Those are nice, we might be able to use something similar to that.” A better choice may be “I know you like roses, but I am thinking more about daisies.”
Aggressive – hostile or entitled. You do not have to remind people that it is your wedding and your way. They already know and are trying to make your dreams come true. Believe it or not, no one intentionally aggravates the bride -especially one with a volatile personality. Becoming a bridezilla will not solve any issues and will ultimately create more.
Passive-aggressive – Acting out through indirect behaviors like slamming a door, pouting, whining, or not responding to an email. This makes you come across as childlike and will only devalue your opinion in the eyes of others.
Open and Flexible – Resolve Conflicts
Truly listen to the other person. Block out distractions, and listen while they speak, then prepare your response.
Ask “Why” questions to get to the real issue and get clarification. The” Five Levels of Why” is a conflict resolution method that says that if you ask “Why” in a series of 5, digging deeper each time, you will get to the base issue of virtually any question in the world. I use it often. It really works.
Consider other perspectives or solutions. Look for the compromise or “win-win.”
Focus On What You Can Control
You can control your behaviors and responses, but you cannot control others. You may not even be able to control the outcome of the issue. And what happens when you simply cannot agree? You may still have to make decisions and implement them, when an acceptable resolution to everyone cannot be achieved. When this happens, no matter what the outcome, you have entered the implementation phase, and should leave the conflict behind.
If you cannot control it, let it go. It is not worth wasting time, emotions and effort on what you cannot control.
What to Do When Dealing with Conflict
- Remain in the present and avoid bringing up old issues from the past. You must look to the future and forget past conflict, or you will become caught in a circle of indecision and recurring conflict.
- When you sense a misunderstanding brewing, communicate directly in-person with the other person. If distance is an issue, you can certainly call as a second choice, but remember you will lose the 95% of communication – non verbal – that we all depend upon.
- Stop emailing/texting. If you have not resolved an issue with a total of 3 emails or messages exchanged, it is unlikely you will do so electronically, and it is very likely that there is some level of communication misunderstanding clouding the real issue. Text battles are never productive.
- Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements when you are communicating to reduce defensiveness on both sides. Consider, “I am upset that I did not select a dress that you prefer” rather than “You are an idiot.”
Forgive (And Yes, Forget) – Past Conflict
There will be many conflicts – some tiny and some almost overwhelming – that you will need to resolve as you plan for your wedding. For the tiny ones, don’t allow them to fester and ruin your experience. Deal with them, put them behind you, forgive and forget.
For the larger ones, keep in mind the real reason you are planning this special day – it is the beginning of your new life as a married couple. Is there really any wedding planning decision that is more important to you than that new life? Work towards acceptance, forgive and let go of the past. Consciously choose how you want to move forward and what is most important to you.
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