Conflict happens everyday. Differences of opinion, style, or personality can all lead to clashes that can negatively impact relationships. How you resolve conflict can be the difference between strengthening a relationship – or ending it.
The existence of conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If it’s resolved in a positive way, it can actually lead to increased self-awareness and understanding between people. Mutual respect can improve and relationships can grow stronger when people have a better understanding and acceptance of each other’s perspectives.
On the other hand, if conflict isn’t handled well, the relationship can be damaged – sometimes beyond saving.
A healthy approach to resolving conflict is to keep your relationship with the other person respectful. By being open to other perspectives and by trying to put yourself in their shoes, you avoid getting stuck in your own particular position.
Here are some other tips to help you resolve conflict in a positive way.
Strategies to Resolve Conflict
Check in with yourself. Practice self-awareness before and during the conversation. Pay attention to what you’re bringing to the table emotionally. If you’ve had a lousy day or are preoccupied with other thoughts, you may not be in the best frame of mind to try to resolve the conflict at this particular moment.
While in the midst of talking about the conflict, you may also feel your emotions bubbling up. Pay attention to them and work to stay calm. It can be easy to get swept up in the moment, but it may ultimately be that much harder to resolve the conflict, once feelings have been hurt and things have been said that you regret.
Practice mutual respect. Treat the other person as you would want to be treated. Do your best to stay constructive. Approach the conversation with empathy and return to that emotional place if the discussion begins to get heated.
Keep it professional. Don’t attack the individual personally. Keep in mind that they aren’t just “being difficult” – they have a valid viewpoint and it’s worth exploring. Discussions about the person’s character, personality, or quirks won’t be helpful in resolving the matter – in fact, they’ll likely make the person defensive and the situation more tense.
Use active listening skills. Ask questions to find out the details about the other person’s perspective. Listen carefully, and you’ll likely get insights into why they have that particular opinion or idea. Practice the active listening skills of restating, paraphrasing, and summarizing to make sure you understand what the person is saying.
You can also use open-ended questions like “Can you tell me what happened from the beginning?” or “Could you tell me how that affected you?” to get to the root of what caused the conflict initially.
Use “I” statements. These statements frame what you’re saying as coming from your experience. You’re not pointing fingers, blaming, or trying to “win.” You’re stating how what happened affected you, and what you hope the resolution is going to be.
Agree on the facts. Between you, establish the hard and fast facts that impact the ultimate decision or goal you’re trying to reach. Distinguish between what is fact – the who, what, when, where, why, and how – and what is opinion. And keep in mind that you might not have all of the facts yet. Don’t assume that you know the full story just yet.
By establishing the facts of the conversation, you’re making sure you’re both talking about the same thing. Focusing the discussion around these facts will also help you develop a solution that works for you both.
Keep an open mind. When you realize that there might be a third (or fourth, or fifth) option, and that you can arrive at that place by working together, the conflict turns into a collaboration. You’re now in this together, and you can both contribute ideas and information to the solution. Being flexible can help you resolve the conflict, strengthen the relationship, and feel good about the answer you arrived at together.
What strategies have you used to resolve conflict? Share them here!