As people cannot always agree on everything, every time, conflict is inevitable in any kind of relationship. Conflicts actually help keep relationships healthy, as long as they are not avoided and managed well.
The first step in wisely handling conflicts is to understand what causes it. In a nutshell, it happens when people disagree over ideas, beliefs, motivations, values, and even desires. Most of the time, the differences are not very noticeable. However, when combined with strong emotions, those differences trigger the need to defend the values and principles of the people involved.
Here are the key things to remember about conflict:
- Conflicts are more than simple disagreements. They happen because people feel threatened.
- Conflicts intensify when ignored. They do not go away when ignored. Instead, they brew into something more destructive.
- Conflicts trigger repressed emotions. When a conflict arises, repressed anger and other strong emotions tend to resurface. This can make it difficult for people to perceive the situation objectively.
- Conflicts open an opportunity for relationship and personal growth. When handled and resolved positively, conflicts can help build trust and strengthen relationships. The people involved can realize how strong their relationship is when faced with conflicts. Ideally, they can also discover ways to handle disagreements in the future.
6 Pathways to Conflict Resolution
Now, managing and resolving conflict in the healthiest way possible may be easier said than done for many. To help you out, here are the 6 pathways to proper conflict resolution.
- Identify how you respond to conflict.
Are you afraid of conflict so much that you tend to avoid it? Typically, people with painful experiences from the past, which may go as far back as their childhood, are predisposed to think that all conflict end badly.
Meanwhile, there are those who react angrily. As a result, they may blurt out hurtful words toward the other person. There are also people who tend to strongly defend their values and beliefs to the point that they are unable to compromise.
Once you recognize how you normally respond to conflict, you can better work to reverse your reaction. For instance, if you find yourself feeling angry when conflict begins, try to stay calm. If you have the tendency to avoid conflict, remind yourself that facing it head-on will result in resolution.
- Learn to manage your emotions.
When conflicts begin, strong emotions may take you over. For example, discomfort can lead to pain, while stress can lead to anger. If you let these emotions get the better of you, you might resist facing and resolving conflict.
To ensure that your emotions don’t dictate your responses, pause, and pay attention to your emotions. Manage your stress quickly while staying calm. Pay attention to the other person’s expressions as well.
- Pay attention to non-verbal cues.
Sometimes, words do not accurately represent what a person is truly feeling. Some people may say hurtful words just to distract from their fear and pain, while some people may not say anything at all. By paying attention to non-verbal cues such as tone of voice, hand gestures, and posture, you may get an idea of how they’re really feeling. This way, you can also adjust how you respond to them.
- Prioritize resolving the conflict over proving who is right.
One of the reasons why conflicts end badly or are not resolved at all is that all of the parties involved defend themselves and what they believe is right. This is natural, and it is not always necessary to drop your principles to end a conflict. However, those involved in the conflict should be prepared to “agree to disagree.” Instead of trying to win the argument, be open to the idea that you have differences and you should look past them. The key is to respect each other’s opinions and values.
- Keep your mind off the past.
It is dangerous to avoid conflict as it will haunt you in the future. This is why any unresolved conflict from the past may get in the way of the present conflict. It is common for people to use past situations in an attempt to prove a point. As much as possible, avoid doing that. Focus on the cause of the present conflict and think of ways to solve it and compromise.
- Forgive and let go.
You can never resolve conflict if both parties are unwilling to forgive and let go. Resent pushes you to take revenge and inflict pain on the other person. Do your best to calm down and forgive the other person and perhaps, yourself as well.
Conflict is inevitable. It will occur even among the best of us. But remember that to avoid is not to resolve it. Face conflict with a sound and healthy disposition, and you will be able to eliminate it for good.