When you are dealing with unresolved conflict, you can sometimes feel as if there is no solution in sight. In the workplace, this can lead to job dissatisfaction, lower productivity, and more mistakes. In personal relationships, you may feel disconnected from the other person, or unhappy with your relationship.
In both settings, you may feel unheard and undervalued. The stress from conflict might even make you feel physically sick.
Living with unresolved conflict is not only damaging for you personally, but it can have a negative ripple effect on the lives of people around you. Have you ever been short-tempered with your spouse after a bad day at work? Or maybe you had little patience for a slow driver when there was conflict at home?
Addressing conflict head-on can be uncomfortable. But until conflict is resolved, it can wear on you (and those around you) physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It’s in your best interests to resolve conflict where you can.
Getting to the root of the conflict
Reflect on a conflict you have recently experienced. It could be a conflict with a partner, friend, family member, or co-worker. What was at the heart of the dispute?
Maybe it was a conflict in needs; such as time, money, or resources? Was it a disagreement over values or beliefs? Was it caused by broken trust, poor communication, or misperceptions? Was someone feeling unheard, unappreciated, or criticised?
If, for example, you frequently argue with your partner over who does the dishes more, consider why this issue really matters to you. Would you like to feel more appreciated in your relationship? Are you feeling overscheduled and need more down time?
By taking a deeper dive into why an issue bothers you, you will enter the resolution process with a clearer idea of what objectives you’re hoping to achieve.
Steps for resolving conflict
Once you’ve clarified what it is that you would like to change, the next step is understanding how to communicate your objectives effectively. The following strategies may make it easier for you:
Plan a good time for conflict resolution
Avoid making the other person feel ambushed by demanding a discussion in the heat of the moment. Instead, you might say something like, “I would like to discuss our financial situation. I think the conversation will take about 30 minutes. Is there a time tomorrow that you would be available to talk?”
Use “I” statements
When discussing the other person’s words or behaviours, focus on how they made you feel. Saying things like, “You were so rude to me!” can make the other person feel defensive. Instead, you might say, “When you interrupted me, it made me feel like my ideas don’t matter to you.” Using “I” statements helps you to assume responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings, while preventing you from making assumptions about someone else. In doing so, you avoid escalating the conflict and make it easier to listen respectfully to one another.
Focus on the problem instead of the person. When we blame other people, we are reacting with emotion rather than logic, and this can make finding solutions more difficult. Blame is also linked to past actions, which we can no longer change. Instead, consider how you can each make an effort to make the current situation better. How can you communicate or plan better to prevent this same problem from happening again?
Be open to compromise
Compromise is not just about one person changing, but about negotiating changes that everyone is willing to make. It can be easy to feel defensive of our views, but to compromise effectively we must also be willing to let something go.
Focus on common goals
Is there any common ground in what you would like to accomplish? Focusing on a shared goal (even if it only resolves part of the conflict) can shift the dynamic from working against each other to working together.
Resolve emotional injuries
Even once a solution is reached, conflict can leave us feeling hurt. What steps can you take to repair and restore your relationship? Maybe you can take the first step in apologising? Can you suggest a fun activity, like getting a coffee together or seeing a movie? Or maybe the situation just calls for a bit of humour?
What does resolution look like?
Take a moment to remember how the relationship or relationships felt before the conflict. Imagine that you can feel this way again, with an even greater appreciation for each other’s unique insights.
In a true resolution, an agreement has been reached that everyone can be satisfied with. The issue has been worked through and not suppressed or put aside. Most importantly, trust and respect have been restored.
Today’s action steps
Get to the heart of the conflict. What bothers you most about your current situation, and what would you most like to change? Write this down. This will help you to communicate your desired outcome more clearly if discussions become emotional.
If you have not already done so, set a time for conflict resolution with the other person or people involved. Find a time that works well for everyone to communicate their views without feeling rushed or overloaded.
If you are ready to work on resolving conflict today, begin by listing any shared goals you may have. This will help you to start working together instead of against each other.
As you go through the resolution process, communicate in a way that assumes responsibility for your role in the conflict. Avoid language that blames, makes assumptions, or puts others in a defensive space.
Conflicts may be an unavoidable part of life, but how you respond to them is always within your control.
Our world-class coaches on Hello Coach can help you get conflict under control.
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