A reader asked me about effective conflict resolution. As I’ve matured, my philosophy is one of striving to avoid conflict as well as confrontational people, but life doesn’t always cooperate.
There’s wisdom in the saying “choose your battles wisely.” In any relationship though, conflict is inescapable and sometimes a battle is worth fighting. Resolving conflict in a healthy way is the challenge. In delving into the subject, I gleaned through several experts’ advice and found there was commonality within the do’s and don’ts of the process.
First and foremost, it takes participants who are willing to resolve the issue. Experts also agree that conflict should be considered an opportunity for, not only personal growth, but growth within the relationship. One misconception with conflict is that there is always a resolution. Unfortunately, sometimes participants don’t come to a resolution that is acceptable to both parties.
One of the basic rules with conflict resolution is that participants have to be willing to communicate honestly and openly without getting defensive. According to relationship expert and author, Dr. Neil Clark Warren, “In conflict resolution, there must be a basic agreement that both people have a legitimate right to feel and think the way they do. No one is wrong simply because he or she disagrees with the other person or does things differently. It‘s okay to have a different point of view.”
“Disagreements and quarrels in a relationship are inevitable, and if approached with openness and respect, they can be beneficial. Conflict is a thousand times easier to manage if two people deeply respect themselves and each other. If that foundation is present, the techniques of conflict resolution can be learned easily.”
Warren distinguished conflict resolution methods in two categories: constructive and destructive. Most of us have firsthand experience with both.
The author also states that people sometimes think avoiding working through the disagreements is best, but when this becomes a pattern, it is not healthy. With mutual respect for the other’s individual needs, conflict with compromise “allows for a win-win situation and builds a deeper intimacy.” Accommodation is sometimes the resolution when the issues and peace are of greater importance to one person than the other.
Depending on the parties involved, you can decide to come together on your own or bring in a third party. By calling a meeting, the parties are recognizing the problem and giving a clear message that it’s important to move forward towards resolution.
Below are some of the author’s methods for a constructive resolution:
Don’t use absolutes such as “never” or “always,” or words such as “can’t,”, or “should.”
Instead, use phrases that begin with “I feel,” “I think,” or “I wish.” or expressions that are not accusatory. Expressions such as “it seems like,” “perhaps,” “maybe,” or “what if,” will help keep the conflict from escalating.
When angry, allow yourself time to cool off before attempting to resolve differences.
Don’t overreact to comments. Instead, take a deep breath and stay calm. If necessary, walk away and schedule a future time to discuss the matter.
Address the issue of the conflict, not the person.
Don’t view the discussion as a competition where one party has to win and one has to lose. When only one person’s needs are satisfied in a conflict, resentment and hurt will continue.
Give each other enough time for expressing opinions and points of view. Allow the other person to express themselves without interrupting.
Accept and respect that the individual’s opinions may differ. Mutually come to common ground or a compromise where there is agreement.
Don’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions about the other person’s feelings or thoughts.
Don’t bring up past injuries. Stay focused on the present issue.
Manipulation should never be part of the resolution process. This can take the form of guilt, flattery, threats, blackmail, subtle deal making or blatant pay-off.
Finally, Warren stresses that when struggling through a conflict, it is essential to ponder what has more value to you. Ask yourself, with this conflict, “Is the outcome of the conflict more important or is it the relationship?” Sometimes one has to decide to relinquish “being right,” letting go of the ego and instead choose peace.
Mary Garza Cummings is a freelance writer. If you have comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.