Although most of us are taught many valuable lessons as well as information during our school years, one extremely important skill that most of are never taught, yet is required for both healthy work and interpersonal relationships, is conflict resolution.
When we have a conflict, a relationship is temporarily destabilized or thrown off balance. An interpersonal conflict is defined as an expressed disagreement between a minimum of two people whose goals are incompatible at the moment the conflict or disagreement arises.
People have different coping styles in the face of conflict. People either choose denial or avoidance and some prefer to “go at it” head on. Some people blame the other person, while others choose to internalize the blame by pointing thee finger at themselves. The constructive ways of approaching conflict are for both parties to compromise and collaborate with one another; compromise is all about “give and take” with the other person. Collaboration is about working together as a team to identify a solution that meets the needs of each person.
When dealing with conflict, first try to pin point exactly what the problem at hand is and what you’re hoping to get out of the situation. To promote problem solving, rather than a defensive atmosphere, it’s important to articulate your thoughts and needs assertively, but also in a non-threatening or accusatory manner. Before attempting to resolve your conflict with the other party, narrow down your needs and thoughts to just a few main points or themes, so you don’t become sidetracked or end up overwhelming yourself or the other person.
Approaching a conflict situation with a clear description of what the conflict is about, focusing on the problem at hand, as well as showing interest and empathy in wanting to understand the other person’s point of view, thoughts and opinions, and expressing interest in finding a middle ground and compromising, facilitates the process of constructive conflict resolution.
According to the University of Rochester’s Counseling Center, listed below are some useful tips for successful conflict resolution:
- View conflict as a constructive way of strengthening your relationships
- If you have very few conflicts with the people in your life, pause and ask yourself: “Am I denying or avoiding conflicts with the people I care about?”
- Communicate in a way that facilitates a problem-solving and caring climate
- Be open. Do not withdraw from the conflict
- Be careful about what you say and how you say it
- Be an active listener. Let the other person know in your own words that you understand his/her thoughts, wishes, and needs
- Summarize what you discuss and make plans to continue the discussion toward resolution
Conflicts Arise from Varying Need
Everyone needs and wants to feel valued, understood, nurtured, and supported, but the ways in which these needs are met can vary widely. Contrasting needs for feeling safe and comfortable, create some of the most severe and difficult to overcome challenges in our personal and professional relationships.
Consider the conflicting need for safety and continuity versus the need to explore and take risks. This is demonstrated between toddlers and their parents. The child’s need is to explore, even if that means wanting to climb off a cliff. But the parents’ need is to protect the child and look out for their safety at all costs, so limiting exploration becomes a bone of contention between parent and toddler.
The needs of both parties of every conflict play an important role in the long-term success of all relationships, and each deserves respect and consideration. When you can recognize the legitimacy of conflicting needs and become willing to examine them and work through them in a compassionate and understanding manner, it opens the door to creative problem solving, team building, and improved relationships.
Listed below are the points associated with “Conflict 101,” according to the team of seasoned mental health professionals at HelpGuide.Org (a non-profit guide to mental health and well-being):
- A conflict is more than just a disagreement. It is a situation in which one or both parties perceive a threat (whether or not the threat is real).
- Conflicts continue to fester when ignored. Because conflicts involve perceived threats to our well-being and survival, they stay with us until we face and resolve them.
- We respond to conflicts based on our perceptions of the situation, not necessarily to an objective review of the facts. Our perceptions are influenced by our life experiences, culture, values, and beliefs.
- Conflicts trigger strong emotions. If you aren’t comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them in times of stress, you won’t be able to resolve conflict successfully.
- Conflicts are an opportunity for growth. When you’re able to resolve conflict in a relationship, it builds trust. You can feel secure knowing your relationship can survive challenges and disagreements.