Complexities of Relational Conflicts
Imagine it’s Saturday morning; the ping on your cell phone wakes you up with a message letting you know that you are uninvited to your sister’s wedding. That would make you feel bad enough to start your day, but then the messages continue throughout the morning without your response, saying that this person never wants to see you again, without an explanation of why or what you had done to bring this about. You spend the day figuring out what went wrong, calling family, trying to figure out the situation, but the evening ends in bewilderment with no resolution.
Such is the experience I had during a 10-year estrangement from one of my sisters. Although the separation no longer exists, I later found out it had little to do with anything I did and came about due to ongoing internal conflicts between other family members and picking sides.
After that experience, surprisingly, my extended family has become closer than ever before during this pandemic.
During my estrangement period, people tried to make me feel bad, saying I must be a horrible person or pitying me. I chose to take it as a sign it was time to move on with my life and access real love and friendship. It was complex and shocking since I had always considered myself an easy-going, low-conflict person and my siblings as friends.
Although estrangement is at the end of the spectrum of conflict, in today’s world, conflict surrounds everyone daily. It’s in the media, in our workplaces, between friends and family, and within ourselves.
Addressing conflict in our lives is extremely important if we expect to move forward to a more positive future. I reached out to Femeca Grant, a certified professional life coach and counselor specializing in helping others reclaim, renew, and redefine their lives. Her work focuses on assisting others to recover from the underlying effects of past trauma, usually stemming from childhood wounding or adult life exposure to narcissistic abuse. Ms. Grant will soon be releasing two new books. The first is the Inspirational Self-Compassion Journal, a journal created to inspire personal growth and increase self-love. The second book is called Her Story Unbreakable Stories: Every Woman has a Story which is a series of stories written by teen girls, young women, and seasoned women showcasing profound stories of trauma and inspiration.
My Interview with Femeca Grant
Are we being led to conflict and anger in society?
In some ways, we are influenced to handle things through anger during conflict because we see it in leadership in our nation. There’s so much conflict in politics. Conflict is glamorized on television. People feed into conflict as a source of entertainment. It’s concerning; we see a lot of fighting on reality shows that glamorize conflict and anger. If you have a society that glamorizes or glorifies this type of toxic behavior, it will eventually spew out onto society and become a norm.
It’s not just the young people. It’s the older people too. When you start watching the movies, if you go to the movie houses or watch stuff on television, it’s riddled with conflict, it’s riddled with behavior that used to be deemed unacceptable, but now it’s glamorized.
Anger has been on the rise even before the pandemic started. One in five Americans reported feeling anger “a lot” in 2018, an increase from 17 percent in the years before, according to the Gallup 2019 Global Emotions Report. The rise is not limited to the United States; negativity is increasing worldwide.
In the same study, Gallup asked adults in 142 countries if they had five different negative experiences on the day before the survey. More than one in three people said they experienced a lot of worry (39%) or stress (35%), and three in 10 experienced a lot of physical pain (31%). At least one in five people experienced sadness (24%) or anger (22%). While overall stress levels dropped two percentage points from the previous year, anger increased by two points — hitting a new high. Worry and sadness were already at record levels, increased by one point of the prior year.
These increases in sadness and anger have led to more conflict in our politics, communities, families, and ourselves.
What are the causes of relational conflict?
There are so many causes of relational conflict, but money is right at the top of the causes of relational strife. Finances are a huge cause of relational conflict. There are other issues like communication, lack of communication, lack of understanding. When you don’t communicate, how can you understand people’s points of view?
Another source of conflict is that people are very self-absorbed and materialistic when this happens; it doesn’t leave room to have respect and compassion for your fellow man because we live in a society driven by image.
What are the two greatest emotions people are experiencing during these times?
A lot of us are rethinking our futures. There’s been a lot of lives lost. There’s been a loss of security. There’s a lot of unrest in our personal lives registering in our society as frustration, anger, feelings of powerlessness; things are changing so rapidly. Many people feel powerless to change their situation, whether that’s due to job loss, the loss of a loved one, isolation, or uncertainty. These emotions can eventually lead to things like anxiety and depression. It can create a situation where violence is on the rise because sometimes some unstable people tend to see violence as a way of lashing out or unleashing this nervous energy.
The last couple of years have been life-changing for everyone on the planet, dividing and bringing people together. Since we cannot go back in time, many people have started to think about their new normal. As noted in the article Quarantine Has Changed Us — and It’s Not All Bad, most people are looking to change different habits in their lives. People are getting outdoors more, spending more time with friends and family, and participating in ethical action and activism in our highly interconnected world.
Change is in the air, and with all these new ways of living and relating, personal interactions and relationships are being impacted.
In what types of relationships do people experience the most significant conflict?
There is so much conflict in so many different types of relationships; in marriages, disputes in the family, between siblings, between parents and adult children, between parents and young children. There’s conflict in the workplace. We live in a society in conflict. I watched a news story the other day, which mentioned the increase of conflict on airplanes. People are not civil when they are in the air for an hour. That’s scary.
Do you think it has become harder for people to maintain relationships in modern times?
I think that it’s harder to maintain healthy relationships because of the time period. It’s like the perfect storm; so much is happening that pulls at the fibers of healthy relationships and it’s tearing us apart. So yes, it is becoming more difficult for a culmination of reasons. The time we are in, social media, a pandemic on the rise, all these things. Suppose you could look at them as layers that have caused more and more division and separation among human beings. These things are reflected in how we treat one another.
In what ways has technology improved or ruined relationships?
Technology can help bring people together. Thank God for Zoom; when we all were in lockdowns or separated from one another, we could communicate and come together through Zoom. It’s not the real thing, but it was a good alternative. On the other hand, you have social media platforms, where people are lashing out and using social media to vent their anger, vent their point of view, even if their point of view is hurtful to another. Social media is separating us.
It seems like everybody’s on their phone these days. Instead of actively engaging with one another, it’s almost like technology has taken the place of the human element. That is very concerning. When people sit down to eat, it’s not the way it used to be; either the television is on, or somebody’s fiddling with a phone. It has created a massive distraction in human beings coming together to communicate and bond.
According to a Pew Research study, Dating and Relationships in the Digital Age, 51% of partnered adults in the U.S. say their partner is often or sometimes distracted by their cellphone while trying to have a conversation with them. In addition, four-in-ten say they are sometimes bothered by the amount of time their partner spends on their mobile device. Technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, creating a rift between in-person and virtual interactions. This rift is causing people to participate less and less in face-to-face interactions and only focus on things that only personally affect and appeal to them.
Is self-absorption and narcissism on the rise? Why?
My answer is an absolute and emphatic yes. Self-absorption and narcissism are on the rise. I believe it’s on the rise because there’s widespread consumption of negative influences from social media and the glorification, glamorization, and rewarding of self-absorbed individuals. Whether they’re celebrities, people on television, or reality TV shows, individuals are rewarded through more media exposure, which means they stay in the public eye.
We keep consuming and recycling more and more of this information throughout our society instead of depicting this behavior as wrong.
According to an article written in the U.S. National Library of Health, narcissism is increasing in modern Western societies, and it’s referred to as a “narcissism epidemic.” The endorsement rate for the statement “I am an important person” has increased from 12% in 1963 to 77–80% in 1992 in adolescents. Recently published books feature more self-centered language compared with earlier publications. For instance, the personal pronouns I and me are used more frequently than we and us. Moreover, narcissistic phrases such as “I am the greatest” have increased between 1960 and 2008. The rise of narcissism gets reflected in more self-focused song lyrics and a stronger orientation towards fame in TV shows. These observations suggest that narcissistic expressions within individualistic cultures have become more frequent.
With the rise of self-absorption and narcissism, close and intimate relationships have declined in quality.
Why is the pandemic causing spikes in the divorce and break-up rate?
Number one, we were all so isolated. For example, when you go to the store, stay six feet apart wearing your mask. People didn’t have an outlet. They had to dwell together and be together constantly, whether they wanted to or not. I think that isolation level was like putting the lid on a boiling pot because maybe some of these people found out that they did not have the love and suffering it took to hold a marriage together. Many people dwelling together found out that they didn’t like or love the other person and felt like they wanted out of the marriage. People just found that they had a different lifestyle that they wanted to pursue. And sadly, divorce was their way out.
People believed in staying together to raise their children and weather the storms together. The isolation brought about some dynamics in the home where people were no longer willing to tolerate one another.
What are the best ways to deal with conflict in relationships?
One of the best ways and the top of the list is always to keep the lines of communication open and be willing to address issues with tact, but do address them during the inception phase. Do not wait for conflict to fester. Bruised emotions unacknowledged eventually build up to resentment. That resentment will not hide forever; it will spew out. Try to cultivate communication that’s respectful and transparent. It’s imperative to set proper boundaries. Some people deal with issues by people-pleasing, and they don’t set appropriate limits, and they’re always willing to say yes to the other person’s opinion. They will feel a sense of resentment because they’re not being acknowledged and not being valued.
They’re not being heard. So, it is essential to let your boundaries be known; we all have a boundary line somewhere within us. We must let that be known because we can’t take it for granted that another person will understand our boundaries. Be not only willing to divulge what we need but willing to be a part of the process.
How do people find inner peace during these times?
It’s so important to surrender. We cannot change certain things, and we must learn to forgive. If it’s abusive, I’m not saying staying with them. That’s not what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is learning to let go of the anger and bitterness and move beyond things that we cannot change or things that have happened in our lives. It is learning to step out of an old garment of conflict that no longer fits you and allowing yourself to be free to step into a new place in your life.
If some people would just let go of offenses, they would find themselves in a place of tremendous peace.
There are so many advertisements trying to help people to find peace, but you must spend a lot of money, and you must do this and that and go there. Not everybody has money to be running here and there. But meanwhile, the things that can give you peace they’re right under your nose. For example, work on getting closer to God or get close to those you hold near and dear. Go out and get close to nature. If you like reading, start reading again, spend time alone, and journal.
When you start to look introspectively, it does something for the soul. When you begin to journal, you allow yourself to be vulnerable. I think there are some things that you’ll find out through your journaling that can lead you to a place of what you need to do to have peace in your life.
The way you can communicate with others can also give you peace. People are so touchy and easily offended. We must monitor our tone how we deal with other people. And I think when we deal with other people differently and observe how we say things to people, it will allow us to enter a place of learning how to resolve conflicts. Learning how to deescalate conflict happens through the way we communicate. Those are some of the ways we can begin to harness a greater level of peace in our own lives.
What is the key to having strong relationships?
Communication is like breathing; somebody’s inhaling, somebody’s exhaling; it’s like sharing air. That’s what a healthy relationship is. And everybody needs space to breathe. We’re going through so much in this day and age. I can’t say it enough. Communicate, keep the lines of communication open, set proper boundaries, make your expectations known. And you’ll be on your way to a healthier relationship.
When do you know it’s better to end a relationship?
When people get to where they are not being valued or respected in a relationship, I don’t ever advocate for divorce; I’m not an advocate of divorce. Still, I am an advocate for people separating. For example, when you’re not being valued or respected in a relationship. If you are in a situation where you are taken for granted, you’re not being acknowledged not only in the ways that you want but in a way that’s plain human decency.
There’s a level of respect we have, even for people we don’t know; strangers, when we go to the grocery store, we have a certain level of courtesy and respect. Your time is not valued when you’re not getting that human courtesy and respect. When you’ve been walked all over financially, nothing about your life or what you have brought to the table in terms of who you are as an individual is being acknowledged or valued. Plus, it has been ongoing and consistent and has become chronic; you need to step back and consider a way out.
What is a true friend?
A true friend is somebody willing to listen. I always go back to communication. A true friend is not only willing to listen, but a true friend gives feedback even if that feedback may not be what you want to hear.
I live in the country. So, if I am driving and my passenger can see, there’s a horse, and I can’t see it because I have a blind spot. A true friend will divulge to you what your blind spots are. It’s somebody willing to deposit into your life from a perspective of care, from a place of respect, and a place of honor. A true friend is somebody who honors you for who you are.
You don’t have to dim yourself down or dumb yourself down in the presence of a true friend. A true friend can see the good, bad, and ugly about us and still be there in our life while we’re on the journey of transformation and life. A true friend is somebody who will always love you, even when you’re not at your best. Maybe you’re going through something in your life, a separation, a death, and broken because of things going on in your life; a true friend is there with you while you’re going through that stage, and they don’t leave you or abandon the relationship.
Additionally, a true friend is somebody who’s there for the long haul, and they’re not a patsy. They’re not somebody that allows you to walk all over them. They’re willing to tell you what they see about you. They’re able to tell you where you need constructive criticism. They’re willing to give you that constructive criticism, but at the same time, they’re eager to praise those areas of your life, where you need to have praise, where you need to have acknowledgment and affirmation. And most of all, they’re willing to stay on the journey with you and not abandon the relationship during difficult times.
What should be the biggest takeaway that we learn about relationships from this pandemic?
The biggest takeaway from this pandemic would be the relationships, which we hold near and dear or once held near and dear to us, are irreplaceable. We should do our part to make sure that we live our lives in such a way that emulates those who came before us, meaning those in our family, who were the glue of our family. I know in my family a lot of those people who were the glue passed away. So, we have a generation of people who are not coming together and creating opportunities to bring the whole family together. I would say that we must now step into the role of being the glue.
Most of all, use time wisely. Pay attention to what’s going on in our society and how not to allow it to affect our quality of life here on earth, as difficult as it is. We should maintain a high standard of values and a high standard of family unity and community. We are doing that during a time when those things seem to be unraveling.
Your faith is important. That’s one thing that people steer away from — the conversation about faith. There seems to be some unspoken rule that people don’t speak publicly about faith anymore.
Well, I think that it’s so important having a church community. If you are a part of one, stay close to that community and your family members. Make a diligent effort to reach out and stay connected. It is so important that we stay connected. I can’t emphasize that enough that we remain connected to friends, family, and our children. Spend time listening and communicating and getting another person’s perspective to find out what’s going on to work towards rebuilding a respectful and safe community. Even if it happens one household at a time, we must start.
About Femeca Grant
Femeca Grant inspires women of all ages to overcome past setbacks through reframing negative thought patterns and imparting the understanding of how to acquire, take back, and step into their personal power, to overcome codependency issues, stop people-pleasing, learn to set boundaries, finally learn to say no, and developing self-compassion. She reminds women that saying yes to self is not selfish. Ms. Grant will soon be releasing two new books. The first is the Inspirational Self-Compassion Journal, a journal created to inspire personal growth and increase self-love. The second book is called Her Story Unbreakable Stories: Every Woman has a Story which is a series of stories written by teen girls, young women, and seasoned women showcasing profound stories of trauma and inspiration.
About the Author
Annmarie Hylton-Schaub, Head Marketing Strategist and Content Developer at Project Good Work, a boutique marketing group focused on helping individuals who want to launch social impact projects, charities, and change-making initiatives. The marketing group works to develop branding, marketing strategy, and content to connect clients with the people who believe what they believe so that their project and business can thrive.
If you have a passion for an unserved community, a social justice problem, or want to change minds, contact Project Good Work at ProjectGood.Work to start your project of change today.