What is Conflict?
Conflict is inevitable (and normal). As long as we have personal opinions and experiences, we’ll occasionally find ourselves at odds with others.
It can occur in any relationship, personal or professional.
Conflict happens when we feel threatened, whether the threat is real or imagined. It’s caused by disagreements about values, motivations, and viewpoints.
Conflict causes an intense emotional reaction. Our response is based on our perspective, not necessarily the facts of the situation.
A common reaction is to ignore conflict, but when we do it gets worse. And while we can probably skip unnecessary arguments, navigating conflict can be beneficial.
When we understand how to resolve conflict peacefully, we gain confidence in our ability to handle difficult emotions. Our relationships become more secure, as we learn to trust that they can withstand hardship.
Keep reading to learn 7 simple conflict resolution tips.
How NOT to Resolve Conflict
When we feel threatened, our first instinct is likely to protect ourselves. We may lash out, act defensively, or shut down.
While a life-and-death situation may warrant this behavior, it’s not effective for handling everyday conflict.
Here are some things we shouldn’t do when facing conflict:
- Yell, degrade or physically harm
- Belittle or ignore other’s feelings and experiences
- Avoid it
- Be uncompromising or unwilling to see other’s perspectives
- Withhold love/friendship/professional courtesy
Tips for Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Understand the Conflict
Sometimes, we can be unclear about what the conflict actually is. Emotions and misconceptions can cloud our understanding. To clarify, we can ask ourselves:
- What caused the conflict?
- What are we upset about?
- What do we need?
- Is our perception of the situation accurate?
- Is our reaction proportionate?
- How can we solve the conflict?
Use Stress Management Techniques
Stress can distort our ability to react in a level-headed way. If we can’t control our stress, we may snap under pressure. During the conflict, it’s okay to step away to practice short-term stress management techniques, like:
- Taking 10 deep breaths
- Going for a walk
- Squeezing a stress ball
- Listening to music
- Observing nature
Practice Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is our ability to understand our emotions and those of others.
Being aware of our emotions helps us respond to situations appropriately. When we truly understand our feelings, we can clearly communicate them to others.
It also allows us to realize the emotional state of others. This makes us more empathetic and helps us respond mindfully.
We can grow our emotional intelligence by:
Separate the Person from the Problem
When we’re in defense mode, it’s can be tempting to attack someone’s character to gain the upper hand. We may end up saying things we don’t mean (or shouldn’t say).
Instead of hurting people’s feelings and potentially causing irreparable damage to our relationships, we should focus on the problem.
Others may be more receptive to the discussion when they don’t feel like they’re being personally criticized.
Stick to the Subject
Conflict can cause the urge to bring up every gripe we’ve ever had with someone. This may stem from an actual unresolved issue, or simply the desire to distract from the current one.
But bringing up the past adds unnecessary tension, and confusion. Rather than rehashing old grudges, we should stick to the present issue.
This allows us to focus on fixing the current problem without added complications.
Don’t Try to Win
The goal of conflict navigation should be to resolve tension and move forward. We should aim to boost understanding and strengthen the bond.
Trying to dominate the other person so we can “win” won’t solve anything.
We should think of it as everyone-against-the-problem, rather than us-versus-them.
Choose Battles Wisely
Sometimes, engaging in conflict isn’t worth our time. It may be pointless, or simply too draining.
If so, we may choose not to engage. If we can let the issue go, without resentment or damage to our relationships, it’s okay to just drop it.
Sometimes, maintaining our peace and dedicating time to more important things is best.
If we can’t drop it but also can’t come to a consensus, we can just agree to disagree.
Conflict can be uncomfortable, and we may prefer to avoid it. But we can use the discomfort as a tool for growth.
When we understand our triggers and reactions, we learn how to resolve conflict peacefully.