Doing Life Together

couple conflictWe all have that person in our lives that drives us crazy and personalizes conflict, making it difficult to handle.

Here are five points to keep in mind when dealing with a high conflict person.

  • Choose your battles. Since most high-conflict people love the battle, minimize your contact with that person when you can. When you do engage, resist the urge to defend yourself, which only ends in more conflict.
  • Set a structure for conflict discussion and talk about expectations. Establish rules for fair fighting, such as no yelling, name-calling, interrupting, etc. It may help to meet in a public place to keep emotions in check.
  • Try to stay calm. When the emotion intensifies, say something like, “We can revisit this when we are both calmer.” The person in the conflict can own part of the problem, rather than singling out the high-conflict person for being so unreasonable. Remember that if the mood is intensifying, you want to calm down the situation. Don’t match the intensity or it will become a contest.
  • Relate to the person around tasks that need to be done or possible solutions rather than reacting to their emotions. Emotions distract from the issue at hand, so keep the issue front and center. Focus only on behavior. Think like a detective: “Just the facts.” Trying to work through emotions usually leads to more blame.
  • Assess your safety. If there are dangerous behaviors like domestic violence or behaviors that could be fatal to the relationship, for example, serial infidelity or out-of-control spending, then you need to make sure you are safe and controls are in place. Other than that, the goal with high-conflict people is to reduce conflict.

Patience is needed with high conflict people. Change is often slow but can happen with commitment to the process and desire to work on the relationship. The person has to experience calmer approaches and see that working through issues can be done and accomplishes more than acting in extreme ways.


Adapted from We Need to Talk by Linda Mintle, Ph.D. (Baker Books, 2015).



BFS_Anger_LGA grudge involves holding resentment because of some real or imagined wrong. A grudge develops when you don’t like the way a conflict ended. Nursing a grudge can lead to revenge. Consider the story of John the Baptist in Mark 6 of the Bible.

Herod was a tetrarch under the Roman Empire. He fell in love with his brother’s wife, Heriodias, who was also his niece. Herodias agreed to marry Herod if he would divorce his first wife. Talk about family conflict!

John the Baptist was a rather outspoken prophet who criticized Herod for this marriage. Herod wasn’t happy about the judgment and imprisoned John. He would have killed John but was afraid of how the people would respond to the killing of one of their prophets. Herod wanted to avoid an uprising.

Herodias was angry that John called her marriage unlawful. She held this against John and nursed the grudge. She was so angry that she looked for an opportunity to have John killed.

In the story, Herod has a birthday party. Herodias’s daughter dances and pleases the tetrarch. Because Herod was so pleased, he tells the daughter to ask anything she likes and he will give it to her. Having been coached by her mother, the daughter asks for the head of John the Baptist, thus securing her mother’s revenge. This biblical story would have ended differently had Herod listened to the truth, accepted responsibility, and repented. Instead, a grudge was nursed and revenge was sought.

The take away: Let go of the offense and don’t hold a grudge. The cost to you isn’t worth it.


Excerpted and adapted from We Need To Talk by Linda Mintle, Ph.D. (Baker Books, 2015).


BFS_Anger_LGAnger is a powerful emotion that needs to be controlled. If you struggle with anger, consider these steps to regain control.

  1. Admit that you are out of control. While anger is a normal emotion and not a sin, anger expression can be sinful. If you curse, yell, scream at, and disrespect others, this is a problem. You are out of control and must admit this for it to change.
  1. Realize that venting anger won’t make you feel better. We know from research that venting anger leads to more aggression. Revisit this idea that venting releases tension and accept that there is no evidence to support this strategy.
  1. Get at the root of your anger. Anger is often triggered by issues from the past. Keep an anger log to see what triggers your explosions. Below the surface, you may feel hurt and vulnerable, a position that makes you uncomfortable. Anger makes you feel powerful, especially if you didn’t feel powerful as a child. But you are an adult and not a victim of your past. You can react differently. Target your hot buttons so you can prepare a different response.
  1. Practice ways to calm down and commit to using them. Rehearse several strategies—deep breathing, time-out, counting to ten, distraction, etc. Practice deep muscle relaxation at night as a way to calm down your body. Then continue to practice until you can cue yourself to relax.
  1. Study the biblical passages on anger—be slow to vent, deal with anger when it comes up, no name-calling, get to the source, etc. Pray and stay close to God, knowing that a fruit of the Spirit is self-control.
  1. Stay calm during the next argument, since you have identified your triggers and are working through issues from your past, use those new ways to calm down.
  1. Discuss what went right. Review your behavior—did you stay calm, stick to fighting guidelines, wait to talk until you were calm, etc. Pat yourself on the back for any change you made for the positive. The more you have small successes, the better you will become at managing anger.

For more, Breaking Free from Anger and Unforgiveness by Dr. Linda Mintle

child and screenPersistence is a trait that most parents want to see developed in their children. We know from research that persistent children are less likely to be delinquent and more likely to be engaged in school. What parent wouldn’t want to build this in their child?

The secret to building persistence is dads. A study in the Journal of Early Adolescence concludes that dads matter when it comes to developing persistence.

Brigham Young University researchers studied children from two-parent families and found that a dad’s parenting style, more so than a mom’s, influenced persistence in children. Specifically, dads who used an authoritative parenting style influenced their kids in a positive way when it comes to persistence.

Authoritative parenting is characterized by a warm style of lovingly listening, but also providing rules and structure. Rules are explained and autonomy is encouraged. So there is a nice balance between loving and accountability. This is in contrast to dads who are authoritarian-dictating to children what to do, or permissive-allowing the child to do whatever.

Every child needs a listening dad who sets structure and provides accountability in a way that is authoritative and loving. So dads, consider your parenting style. Are you building resilience and providing the right amount of structure to help your child grow in a way that helps him or her stay in the game and finish? You are a big influence in the development of your children. Use that influence to build persistence.