Things getting heated? Conflict is natural but how you handle it makes a difference. These conflict management tips can help you build stronger relationships.
Disagreements are a fact of life in many of our relationships whether it’s a romantic partner, family member, friend, or work colleague. It’s pretty difficult to flow through life and not find a relationship with someone where you don’t have opposing viewpoints even if just on one particular topic. I try to avoid conflict at all costs and do everything in my power to be easygoing rather than getting into arguments with people I care about.
While this people-pleaser nature in me has saved me from many confrontations, it has also prevented me at times from developing meaningful connections with others because I fled at the first sign of tension. Running from conflict also meant I had to learn how to resolve and address issues later in life. Lasting relationships are going to have conflicts, whether small disagreements, slights, built-up tension over time, or full-blown arguments.
While it can be easy to remove yourself from what feels like a negative situation, eventually conflicts have a way of coming full circle. Many of us try to avoid conflict and disagreements to avoid stress. However, biting your tongue and walking away can only go so far and if the damage is significant, it will ultimately lead to more problems than it will solve. Avoidance can sometimes give the impression that you don’t care or that other people’s concerns and problems aren’t important. By addressing challenging moments head-on, you allow your relationship to grow and deepen with your loved ones while working together to resolve things instead of jeopardizing what you share with them. If you value your relationships and want to learn conflict management tips rather than avoid it, keep reading.
Related Article: Flag on the Play: How to Interpret Relationship Signs
1. Before The Boiling Point
2. Don't Fan The Flames
3. Cool It Down
4. Choose Peace
Before The Boiling Point
Whether it’s a difference of opinion or disagreement there are ways to resolve conflicts before they escalate. First, try not to let things that bother or cause you discomfort fester. While every conflict doesn’t need to be dissected, if something is truly irritating you: address it. Remember that if this is a relationship you both value then you should both be willing to work towards a resolution that allows you to grow together. No one wants to compromise because that means one of you has to lose. Choosing to work together and towards a mutually agreeable resolution is the ultimate win-win.
To have a constructive conversation, set a time and space where you both can fully discuss the issues and have time to process the conversation afterward. When you invite your loved one into the discussion you don’t need to be specific about the subject at hand. You can simply let them know that you have something on your mind you want to work through and set a time and place that works for both of you. When you do get together, start the conversation by expressing the value you place on this relationship, how much you care for them, and your investment in this relationship’s future.
When discussing the concern, try to avoid blaming and making assumptions, even if you feel angry or uncomfortable. It’s important to distance yourself from blame and focus on understanding each other. If you’re not sure that you’re ready, ask yourself if you have their best interest at heart as well as your own in bringing the conversation up. As long as you do, it’s worth addressing even if it feels awkward. It’s also helpful to remember that just because you disagree doesn’t mean the relationship is over; it’s a starting point to growing and understanding each other better.
"Conflict isn’t a sign of incompatibility but can be as simple as a miscommunication or difference of preferences." — The Medley
If you find yourself nervous about bringing up a subject of conflict, it might be a sign that it’s worth discussing. Start by being honest about how you feel and allow the other party to receive your emotions so that they can consider and process those feelings. Being transparent and vulnerable will allow your loved one to fully see and hear you. If everything aligns, you should feel closer to this loved one by the end of the discussion.
After expressing yourself, take a moment to consider how your loved one might be feeling and what they might be going through. Give them an opportunity to explain their perspective and process their feelings along with yours so you can work towards understanding each other and finding common ground. Try not to place value in the reasoning as it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t change the hurt you experienced or the right- or wrongness of the choices made or words used. The sheer fact that they’re willing to work with you and share the discomfort of confrontation with you is a sign of their investment and love for the relationship.
Don't Fan The Flames
Conflicts come in all sizes and aren’t always resolved quickly or in just one conversation. If someone approaches you with a conflict, it’s perfectly fine to ask for more time to process. I tend to be reactive when confronted, so taking some time and space to respond on mutual terms can help me be more receptive to understanding their perspective.
"Remember that feelings are information, not a reflection nor an attack on you." — The Medley
When you are ready make sure that you are paying attention to the words and nonverbal language your loved one uses. The inflection on the words as well as the words chosen matters. Ask questions to try and fully understand and make sure that you verbalize that you care about their concerns and want to resolve the issues.
Try to keep an open mind and remember that you are allowed to take some time to reconcile and process the information and come to terms with it. Even if you don’t agree, actively listening can make your loved one feel heard and more willing to work towards a solution together. Try not to judge and be thoughtful in your word choice and the questions you ask. There’s no need to interrupt with your own thoughts or try to guess what they’re going to say next.
Related Article: Practice Makes Perfect: Tips to Becoming a Better Active Listener
Cool It Down
Now that both parties are closer to being on the same page, you can work towards solutions. Unresolved conflicts can eventually lead to more issues like symptoms of a bigger issue so try to settle things mutually rather than ignoring them. Most of us are familiar with compromise and while it can be one of the quickest ways to settle a dispute, it usually leaves one party feeling like they sacrificed or gave more up than the other. Compromise can be a solid temporary solution until you both feel like you can work towards a more agreeable one that benefits each of you.
By engaging in collaborative efforts and actively sharing suggestions, you both assume equal responsibility and make a rational decision to proceed with a solution that mutually benefits everyone. Look at where your experiences align with the conflict and start there. Don’t judge or criticize ideas, work on maximizing the options so that you have a choice. Once you bounce solutions off of one another, try to find one that makes the decision easy. It might not be perfect, but the resolution that benefits both of you the most is likely the best one.
Sometimes it may be necessary to explore alternatives when you can’t agree on a resolution. Try to be realistic and practical in your problem-solving approach, and use all the tools in your belt to work together for a solution that resolves things as smoothly as possible. As long as you both approach the situation with a win-win mindset you should end up feeling satisfied with the solution.
Working to maintain healthy conflict can help us resolve or manage the differences we have between one another to make a relationship work better for all involved parties. When we manage conflict this way, we end up feeling more at peace because we have chosen a solution that we all agree on and aligns with each of our values. Remember some of the gains are slow, you might start by compromising with them to give them the time and space they need to work towards a more mutual resolution. Managing conflict this way can help you to feel closer to the other person, and improve how satisfied you are in the relationship, not to mention the trust you will build by allowing them to truly understand you and being open to their perspective as well.
Conflict in our lives and relationships is normal and even necessary at times, but it’s how we handle it that makes all the difference. While unhealthy conflict leads us to distance, disconnect, and unhappiness, healthy conflict can help us resolve things with others in a constructive and sustainable way and potentially even bring us closer to one another. It’s not necessary to resolve every conflict for a relationship to work, but addressing the important ones could help save your relationship. The goal should be to align more closely so that you can continue to develop and maintain your relationship, not change their mind or way of thinking.
Comment Below: How do you resolve conflicts in your relationships? What strategies worked well for you and what hasn’t?