When you find yourself at odds with someone, are you usually able to remain calm and resolve the situation peacefully? Or do you sometimes lose your temper and fly off the handle? Conflict resolution isn’t always easy, and if you find yourself wishing you were more adept at it, you’re far from alone. Here, I’ll explain more about healthy conflict resolution and share some effective strategies to help you cope when you’re mid-argument. Take a deep breath!
- What Does Healthy Conflict Resolution Mean?
- Conflict Resolution Best Practices
- Practice Self-Care for Peace of Mind
What Does Healthy Conflict Resolution Mean?
Conflict is a perfectly normal part of human relationships. It even begins when we’re very young; how many of us count fighting with a sibling among our earliest memories? None of us are perfect, and when two or more imperfect people live or work together, there’s bound to be tension and disagreement from time to time. So whether it’s your roommate, your spouse, or your coworker you’re sparring with, be assured that conflict is just part of life. It doesn’t mean the person likes, loves, or respects you any less (and vice-versa). In fact, having a tiff with someone (and going on to resolve it) is one way we learn more about one another.
Of course, it’s helpful for everyone involved if the situation doesn’t get ugly or leave anyone nursing some seriously hurt feelings. So, let’s talk a little about what constitutes healthy conflict resolution. Here are some of the characteristics of a “fair fight”:
- All parties remain relatively calm and in control of their emotions.
- Everyone involved is able to share their thoughts and feelings, rather than withdrawing or giving “the silent treatment.”
- No one resorts to ad hominem (personal) attacks.
- Everyone avoids unfair generalizations (e.g. “You always do this!”).
- No one digs up past grudges that have little to nothing to do with the present issue.
When we learn to air our grievances in an emotionally healthy way, we’re much more likely to come to a resolution peacefully. Next, we’ll explore some ways to stay calm and stave off the verbal fireworks.
Conflict Resolution Best Practices
Look at Yourself First
When you’re annoyed, frustrated, or downright livid, it’s tempting to focus on what the other person is doing. “Why does he roll his eyes whenever I try to explain why I’m mad? If she makes just one more sarcastic comment, I’m going to go ballistic. Do any of these sound familiar? Take a minute to be mindful of your own body language, and think carefully before you speak. If you have a habit of sighing passive-aggressively or interrupting, try replacing those behaviors with something more constructive. In many cases, that could simply mean keeping a neutral facial expression and remaining quiet. It’s not easy to break a bad habit, but when it comes to our important relationships, it’s so worth it.
During an argument, you may feel unkind words on the tip of your tongue. After all, when someone refuses to see things your way, is that person really worthy of your kindness and empathy? The answer is YES! Resist the urge (no matter how strong) to get nasty. You’ll come to a mutual agreement much sooner if you’re able to remain respectful and considerate of the other person’s feelings. What’s more, you won’t be left feeling embarrassed and regretful that you said something you really didn’t mean.
Be a Good Listener
Here’s a simple life hack you can take with you just about anywhere: listen more than you talk. Instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next, clear your mind and give all your attention to what the other person is saying. Sure, you may disagree on certain points, but is there some truth to what they’re saying? Check out these six ways to become a better listener and practice them at times when you’re not feeling irritated or angry. That way, when you’re in a heated situation, you’ll have had plenty of practice tuning your ears (and mind and heart) to the other person’s point of view.
When you’re not sure if you understand someone else’s perspective, try this. Summarize what they’ve told you in your own words and ask them—not sarcastically—if you have it right. You’ll reduce the risk of misinterpreting what they’re communicating to you.
Actively Avoid the Blame Game
When something’s not right, it’s so easy to point the finger at anyone except ourselves. It’s human nature to want our problems to be someone or something else’s fault. That said, blaming others for our own mistakes is unhealthy and unproductive. Learn how to stop playing the blame game and take responsibility for your part in the conflict. Leaving the accusatory language out of your argument will help you to resolve your issues more amicably.
Keep an Open Mind
It’s difficult for two or more people with conflicting perspectives to resolve their differences if everyone remains close-minded. Remember that no matter how much you believe you’re in the right, the other person may not see it your way. Check out this primer on how to be open-minded in conflicts and see if you can apply some of the tips to your own communication style.
For further reading, check out The Five Dysfunctions of a Team book by Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni has excellent advice for conflict resolution, especially as it pertains to the workplace and professional collaborations.
Practice Self-Care for Peace of Mind
It’s much easier to stay as cool as cucumber in heated situations if you’re not chronically stressed and anxious. If you’ve been feeling a little high-strung lately, here are some easy ways to practice self-care and blow off steam.
- Try yoga for beginners. Even a few simple poses and cleansing breaths will help you clear your mind.
- Commute making you grouchy? Download an app like Calm for guided meditation sessions anywhere.
- Bring yourself back to center with a brisk walk or jog. Making time for daily exercise can help prevent depression and anxiety.
Spend time with a good friend. A strong friendship can help you to feel happier and less stressed.
No matter what, remember that conflict is inevitable, even with those we love and respect most. When you find yourself in a disagreement or quarrel, take a minute to center your mind and tap into some of these strategies. When you do your best to fight fairly, the other person will notice and appreciate your composed mood and empathetic attitude. Disagree, discuss, resolve—and then hug it out!