Sooner or later, there is conflict in every relationship. While it may be upsetting when it happens, it’s a normal, healthy part of relating to other human beings. Disagreements don’t have to mean that a relationship is over, but if conflict is mismanaged it can lead to increased anger, hurt feelings and possibly destroyed relationships.
Learning and practicing effective conflict management skills can greatly improve the stability of your relationships and can help reduce your own negative reactions to conflict. While you won’t be able to avoid conflict altogether, these skills can help you to manage conflict in healthy ways and can strengthen the bonds of your relationships.
1. Assert What You Want or Need
It’s possible to assert your wants or needs without rage or aggressiveness. Describe your thoughts by stating the facts without talking about feelings.
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Don’t assume the other person knows what you need from him or her if you haven’t clearly stated it. Conflicts frequently arise because of misunderstandings that start with never stating what you’re thinking or the response you are looking for from the other person.
2. Listen to the Needs of the Other Person
Besides stating your own position, be willing to calmly listen to the wants or needs of the other person without reactivity. Don’t jump to conclusions before you’ve paid attention to what they are saying. Listen carefully to the words being stated, and don’t try to read into their statements.
Be respectful of the other person. Avoid blame, accusations or insults. The fact that they don’t agree with you on this issue doesn’t make them a bad person. Repeating back to them what they are telling you can help you to clearly understand their side of the argument.
3. Control Your Emotions
If you’re consumed with volatile emotions, minor disagreements can quickly spiral out of control. Your emotions may cloud your mind, making it difficult to even know what you want or need with any degree of clarity.
Turbulent emotions can also make it next to impossible to clearly communicate with the other person. If you’re feeling intense emotions, try to calm yourself down with deep breathing or by acknowledging and releasing the emotion. At times you may be able to diffuse the intensity of a disagreement by using humor. In an intense conflict, you may need to take a walk or postpone the discussion until you have calmed down.
4. Use Mindfulness
Mindfulness is an important tool in conflict management and in coping with all aspects of day-to-day life. While you’re in the middle of a conflict, avoid being distracted by other things that are going on around you. Stay in the present moment and don’t become more emotional by projecting consequences that may or may not happen months or years in the future, or by bringing up past hurts. Focus on what can be done in this moment in time to solve the problem.
5. Be Willing to Negotiate and Problem Solve
Conflict can’t be resolved if both parties are determined to win rather than work out a compromise or a solution that benefits both of you. A conflict is simply a problem that needs to be solved. See if you can find common ground where both you and the other person get some of what you want, but may have to let go of some aspects of what you want.
The goal is to reach a middle ground that is satisfactory for both of you, and may be possible when you both feel your perspective has been considered. Resolving conflicts is a skill that takes time and practice, but it’s a skill you need to work on whenever you are in a relationship that is important to you.
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