Tips for Conflict Resolution
Having no conflict in a relationship does not necessarily make it healthy. In fact, in all relationships conflict will arise at some point even if it is not acknowledged or addressed. The more accurate way to determine whether a relationship is healthy is to look at how conflict is handled and managed.
Here are some tips for conflict resolution so you can feel heard, get your needs met more effectively, and engage in healthier conversations with others.
1. Be mindful of how you start the conversation. A “you” or blaming statement tends to escalate a conversation and lead to defensiveness. Instead, start with an “I” statement that is structured something like, “I feel ______ when you _______.” So instead of something like “You’re always on your stupid phone!” say something like “I feel alone when we are together, and you are on your phone. I miss you and want to spend more time with you.”
2. Try not to get defensive. Becoming defensive often leads to escalation of the situation and the other person stops listening to you.
3. Engage in active listening. Listen to understand. Do not listen to respond. If you are thinking about your next point or statement you want to make, you are not listening.
4. Validate. This is not the same as agreeing or condoning. You can validate someone’s emotion or perspective without agreeing with the facts of it. For example, your friend says they are upset because they feel you tend to cancel plans often. Instead of arguing how many times that has actually happened or stating something they do that bothers you, you might instead validate and reflect back what they said. For example, “I hear you saying you are angry because you feel I cancel plans often, and that this makes it hard to rely on me.”
5. Minimize and work to eliminate any behavior that will escalate the situation. This includes sarcastic or hurtful comments, eye rolling, and name calling. These behaviors will slowly erode and damage the relationship overtime.
6. Take a break when needed. If you feel yourself beginning to escalate request a break or walk away respectfully. Do not make the situation worse. Once we are escalated, we are not able to think clearly and rationally, and our emotions can take over. We can either shut down and stonewall or we can yell and become aggressive. Conflict is not often resolved when these situations occur. It’s best to take a break to calm down and come back to the issue.
7. Address any issues directly with the person. Do not address the issue through passive aggressiveness, through social media, or through other people.
8. Stay on topic. Do not bring up other issues as this often leads to escalation, distracts from the current conversation, and can make resolving the current conflict more difficult.
9. If needed, get a third-party person to help mediate the conversation. This may be a family member, friend, or therapist.
10. Take self-responsibility. Do not blame others for your baggage, triggers, and mistakes – own your stuff. Model this for the other person to increase the chances they might do the same.
11. Recognize that we are responsible for our own behavior, and our behavior only. We have no control over others and how they respond.
12. Focus on the goal of the conversation. Think about what you want to get out of the conversation and let go of any petty or insignificant requests or demands.
Remember, how we approach and ask for our needs to be met and how we go about asserting ourselves makes all the difference in the probability of being heard and getting our needs met.