Conflict Resolution Skills - from Helpguide.org
Building the Skills That Can Turn Conflicts into Opportunities
In This Article:
- Understanding conflict in relationships
- Conflict may feel more threatening
- Successful conflict resolution
- Quick stress relief
- Emotional awareness
- Nonverbal communication
- Tips for managing and resolving conflict
- Related articles and resources
Understanding conflict in relationships
Conflict arises from differences. It occurs whenever people disagree over their values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. Sometimes these differences look trivial, but when a conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal need is at the core of the problem, such as a need to feel safe and secure, a need to feel respected and valued, or a need for greater closeness and intimacy.
Conflicts arise from differing needs
Everyone needs to feel understood, nurtured, and supported, but the ways in which these needs are met vary widely. Differing needs for feeling comfortable and safe create some of the most severe challenges in our personal and professional relationships.
Think about the conflicting need for safety and continuity versus the need to explore and take risks. You frequently see this conflict between toddlers and their parents. The child’s need is to explore, so the street or the cliff meets a need. But the parents’ need is to protect the child’s safety, so limiting exploration becomes a bone of contention between them.
It is important to acknowledge that both parties’ needs play important roles in the long-term success of most relationships, and each deserves respect and consideration. In personal relationships, a lack of understanding about differing needs can result in distance, arguments, and break-ups. In workplace conflicts, differing needs are often at the heart of bitter disputes. When you can recognize the legitimacy of conflicting needs and become willing to examine them in an environment of compassionate understanding, it opens pathways to creative problem solving, team building, and improved relationships.
Tips for managing and resolving conflict
Managing and resolving conflict requires the ability to quickly reduce stress and bring your emotions into balance. You can ensure that the process is as positive as possible by sticking to the following conflict resolution guidelines:
- Listen for what is felt as well as said. When we listen we connect more deeply to our own needs and emotions, and to those of other people. Listening in this way also strengthens us, informs us, and makes it easier for others to hear us.
- Make conflict resolution the priority rather than winning or "being right." Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Be respectful of the other person and his or her viewpoint.
- Focus on the present. If you’re holding on to old hurts and resentments, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be impaired. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the here-and-now to solve the problem.
- Pick your battles. Conflicts can be draining, so it’s important to consider whether the issue is really worthy of your time and energy. Maybe you don't want to surrender a parking space if you’ve been circling for 15 minutes. But if there are dozens of spots, arguing over a single space isn’t worth it.
- Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can never compensate for our losses and only adds to our injury by further depleting and draining our lives.
- Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.
Healthy and unhealthy ways of managing and resolving conflict
Unhealthy responses to conflict:
Healthy responses to conflict
- An inability to recognize and respond to the things that matter to the other person
- Explosive, angry, hurtful, and resentful reactions
- The withdrawal of love, resulting in rejection, isolation, shaming, and fear of abandonment
- An inability to compromise or see the other person’s side
- The fear and avoidance of conflict; the expectation of bad outcomes
- The capacity to recognize and respond to the things that matter to the other person
- Calm, non-defensive, and respectful reactions
- A readiness to forgive and forget, and to move past the conflict without holding resentments or anger
- The ability to seek compromise and avoid punishing
- A belief that facing conflict head is the best thing for both sides