friends hug

Contrary to popular belief, childish arguments don’t just happen in the school playground. Sure, we may have come a long way since our days on the slides and swings, yet it’s still entirely possible for us to revert back to our former, child-like, argumentative self.

The people we’re most likely to have an interpersonal conflict with are not those who we genuinely despise; they are those closest to us – our dearest friends or, indeed, a significant other. When you spend an excessive amount of time with anyone, their flaws seem exaggerated; they begin to tower over your every meeting in a simply unignorable and sometimes intolerable way. To cut a long story short, there will come a point in every close relationship, platonic or otherwise, when conflict arises – often unexpectedly.

So, what happens next? Well, in the wake of any fracas, the two parties walk away feeling hurt; that’s a given. What makes the situation a whole lot worse, though, is when that hurt festers into something altogether more sinister – bitterness. That emotion is the most dangerous of all since it prevents you from forgiving the other person. Aside from the many social benefits of letting bygones be bygones, there is a very real health advantage too.

According to research from Mayo Clinic, failing to forgive people (i.e. holding a grudge) can actually lead to physical issues such as high blood pressure and an elevated heart rate. On the other hand, these issues are completely avoided when you take steps to resolve the issue and move forward in the relationship. While finding ways to get over a fight is anything but easy, it’s necessary if you hope to lead a happy, healthy existence. Here’s how you can learn to let go of your negative feelings and solve the problem at hand.


Don’t internalize the situation

As the French novelist Anaïs Nin wrote, We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.” That sentiment is worth recalling every now and then. The way in which you see things is not necessarily how they actually are. Often, we internalize situations, and see them through a somewhat distorted lens.

Looking at the situation in a rational way is not always possible when your emotions are riding high. The likelihood is that you’ve both said or done things you regret. Once you stop internalizing your thoughts and start seeing the bigger picture, forgiveness will seem like a logical next step.


Set your ego aside 

You may not realize it, but your ego plays a leading role in the way you approach conflict. All too often, the reason that a person shies away from forgiving people is because their ego has been bruised by the conflict. You don’t have to be a major narcissist to allow this to happen either.

For example, let’s say that you’ve always been proud of your cookery skills. They’re not something you’d boast about, but subconsciously, you view them as an intrinsic part of your character. If a friend or your partner begins to question that fact or even insults your skills, you will take offense. You may not realize it at the time, but their words have threatened one of the core things you believe to be true about yourself. If you rise to this threat, an argument is bound to follow. When you set your ego aside, you will realize that these comments don’t have any effect on your self-worth. Then, you can begin to move forward.


Accept what can’t be changed

Bitterness is a truly toxic emotion, yet it creeps into us all from time to time. After the event or argument, it’s easy to hold onto that feeling of hurt. You may replay the conflict in your mind over and over, focus on the things that really stung and consider what you should have said or done in response. Thoughts of revenge might even be a guilty pleasure, no matter how futile you know them to be.

While you may not be doing these things consciously, they create an unhealthy pattern of behavior. All you’re doing here is allowing the bitterness to overwhelm you. This poison will seep into your every experience and taint the way you act and speak. The only way to avoid it is to act fast.

According to a study from the University of Adelaide, we’re simply more likely to forgive people when they suffer some form of punishment. We want blood and we will stop at nothing until we get it. That’s a trend that we simply have to buck before it gets the better of us. Rather than seeking retribution, seek common ground.

To do so first, you must understand that you can’t change the past; what’s happened has happened. Game over. What you can control, though, is the future. Look at this situation as an opportunity to grow and develop as a person; and also as a way in which you can strengthen your relationship with the other party.


Simply let it go

It would be callous to suggest that you can simply change your mindset and – *poof* – the argument never happened. As convenient as that may sound, we are all too aware that getting over a conflict is not so easy. The key to overcoming this conflict is honestly avoiding negative thought patterns.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in our our mind, that we warp our own perception of things. Whenever you catch yourself thinking something that could be detrimental to your mental health, for example ‘That person was out of line’ or ‘I should have said this when they said that,’ stop and reevaluate things. When you catch these thoughts as you have them, you can train yourself not to have them anymore.

How do you eradicate the thoughts completely? The answer is simple – you have to replace them with something else, something positive. Create a mantra that helps you to overcome your feelings about the situation. For example, you might tell yourself “I am strong enough to be the bigger person” or “This happened because of [this reason] and I can take [this lesson] from it.” Once you get into the habit of repeating these mantras to yourself, the negative thoughts will slowly start to disappear. Only then, can you truly get over the situation and start to move on in a healthy, positive way.