Leaders from around the world are sharing their stories with us about how the pandemic has surfaced deep values-based divides within their communities and personal relationships. These tensions are taking their toll on leaders navigating conflict and these divides, not only in their social change efforts but also within their network of friends and families leading to personal conflicts. 

Handling personal conflicts when values clash proved to be a consistent theme during our Belonging Matters Conversations For Leaders sessions. For example, in recent cohorts we heard about:
  • Grandparents telling their grandkids that their parents have poisoned them by giving them a vaccine, leading to deep divisions between the generations.
  • An adult child moving home during the pandemic who was fiercely against COVID-19 vaccinations, leading to a clash between family members on how best to stay safe.
  • A mother deciding not to attend her child’s wedding because she did not want the COVID-19 vaccine and therefore could not get on a plane to attend her daughter's wedding.

All of us can relate to how life becomes pretty challenging when values clash within our close personal relationships. Often, we can feel disconnected and distant from the person, making it difficult to work through the tension. We sometimes develop strong anxieties worrying about what to say or how to fix things; this can manifest in things like losing sleep, feeling agitated or irritable, feeling dull or disheartened or even losing motivation or energy to do things.

We can drive ourselves into a frenzy as we stew in our own negative or extreme emotions. Sometimes we feel so threatened we even become antagonistic toward the person. Or we simply feel exposed and vulnerable because someone we truly care about has hurt us. And of course, this can all put quite a strain on our professional lives as we become distracted and unfocused.

Navigating close personal conflicts when values clash and the big emotions that come with them can be difficult, especially if you feel like you can’t put your best authentic self forward.

You may be asking yourself how do I overcome this?

What do I do when my values clash within personal relationships?

Here’s what leaders from the May 2022 Belonging Matters Conversations For Leaders cohort had to say about working through close personal conflicts.

5 Tips for Navigating Personal Conflicts with Those Close to Us

navigating conflicts in close personal relationships

#1 Take a breath.

Bring awareness to your own emotions. This is always a great first step in navigating any situation where values clash because it allows for a pause. It gives your mental and emotional processes an opportunity to take a step back and assess the situation.

You can ask yourself, “Am I safe? Do I have the capacity to try to work through this conflict, or should I walk away for the moment and come back when I’m calmer?”

Remember, it is okay to walk away if you don’t have the capacity within the moment.

#2 Agree to be respectful.

If you feel safe and have the capacity to work through the personal conflict, agree with the other person that you will be respectful with one another. Agree to speak calmly—no shouting or swearing. And agree that you will work together to solve the conflict.

#3 Decide you are still going to love them.

Remember that you care about this person. This person is, after all, a close personal relationship that you would like to keep. Our leaders suggest that when your values clash with a close personal relationship, you make the active choice to still love the person. The current conflict is just a bump in the road.

#4 Be clear on what you need.

Express what you need from the person and the relationship by setting clear boundaries. Ask them to do the same and be open to receiving those boundaries. Sometimes this means reassessing your expectations of the relationship and letting go of old expectations.

#5 Find common ground.

Find common ground that you can both value together. Finding that shared space can help resituate the relationship in a more positive direction. It also can help both parties to feel like they bring value into the relationship.

Belonging Matters Conversations For Leaders

These 5 tips are just a few of the many strategies leaders discussed in the Belonging Matters Conversations For Leaders sessions. If you are interested in learning how you can work through difficult situations like when your values clash with others – be it personal or professional – join the next cohort!

It's been a real joy for me…

I think the most impactful take-away for me from Belonging Matters Conversations For Leaders is the reminder and learning of the “transformational power of small circles”. The compilation of the wisdom from the group is like a pearl that's worthy of picking up and putting in a necklace I'm wearing.

Jessie met my expectations and more. I think it's brilliant that she's able to contribute to our human existence the way she has been, but extra love to her for how she was able to gather us into the fold. Having a varied group where you end up feeling safe and comforted is often a challenge, especially when talking about topics that are reflective of one’s inner personalities and struggles.

It's been a real joy for me to meet people who are working in the field—with people who learn differently, with people who are developed differently, with people who have different aspirations—and to be able to sit together around the round table and be equal contributors. That, to me, has been really amazing. Courses like this help us make changes to do things differently, and we become empowered to teach others like a ripple that keeps growing.

Monica Walters-Field Resource in/for Right Relations and Productive Learning Partnership
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    About the Author

    Jessie Sutherland

    An international speaker, trainer, and consultant, Jessie Sutherland works with organizations and communities to engage diversity, build belonging and ignite intercultural collaboration. Her approach creates sustainable community change that effectively addresses a wide range of complex social problems.

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