Life is all about relationships.
And the quality of those relationships has a massive influence on your level of peace and happiness.
But as you probably know all too well, relationships can be complicated and challenging to navigate. Sometimes things get messy and end up in conflict!
The good news is that you can actually be calm, composed and effective while in the middle of a relationship conflict.
And developing that ability is so important.
Your peace and happiness depends on it.
Where is There Conflict in Your Life Right Now?
Before we go through 6 practical steps to support you with navigating relationship conflicts, firstly let’s look at your unique situation to identify where you could start applying these steps.
Think about the diversity of relationships in your life right now, and where there may currently be conflict.
Whether that’s a subtle level of unspoken tension, or there’s been an upsetting misunderstanding, or perhaps full blown arguments.
Who do you have conflict with at present?
- Work colleagues?
What is the conflict about?
Have you tried to resolve it yet, but your approach hasn’t worked?
Or have you been avoiding dealing with it, because you’re not sure how to resolve it?
Starting Point – Acknowledgement & Attention
In order to resolve conflict, we’ve got to be willing to ACKNOWLEDGE that a conflict does exist. And, we have to admit that it does require our ATTENTION if anything is going to change.
Without acknowledgement and attention, conflict festers and boils away in the background. Left unaddressed, that conflict is draining psychologically and emotionally for you. It’s like carrying around a weight on your shoulders. You can only do that for so long before it really takes a toll.
Do Your Best – That’s All You Can Do & It’s Enough
Yet, conflict can be scary, right?!
No one likes to end up in confrontation with other people. When disagreeing and under pressure, people can be rude and toxic, saying hurtful things, and it’s natural if you’d prefer to avoid that.
But avoidance is not a strategy.
Remember – acknowledgement, attention, and… now action!
It’s brave and empowering to face a conflict and consciously look for ways to resolve it. You’re to be applauded for your willingness to do that.
And while not all conflicts are going to be resolved to a peaceful, happy ending, many can be if you approach the conflict the right way.
Because while you can’t control the other people involved in the conflict situation, you do have control over the most important thing… YOURSELF!
You get to control your own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, choices, behavior and actions.
If you do that to the best of your ability, then you know you’ve done everything that you can to play your part in resolving conflict and moving forward positively in your relationship/life.
That’s all we can ever ask of ourselves – to be the best person we can be, and to learn and grow from our experiences.
That said, let’s dive into the 6 practical steps that are essential for helping you to resolve conflict with anyone. These are timeless and highly effective.
STEP #1 – Give Up the Need to Be Right
Conflict usually exists because people hold different viewpoints and that sparks disagreement.
And as long as both people concretely hold onto their viewpoints, and deem themselves to be “right” and the other person to be “wrong”, then conflict will continue.
If someone tells you, “you’re wrong”, what’s your immediate reaction?
Probably you’ll instantly disagree and defend yourself! That’s the typical reaction most people have.
If you tell someone, “I’m right”, what’s their immediate reaction?
Usually they’ll feel diminished and invalidated, and will attempt to counter your statement and defend their own viewpoint.
So, if you want to start off on the right foot with resolving conflict, you MUST give up the need to be right. If you enter into a conversation with the other person and no longer care about “I’m right” and “you’re wrong”, but instead put all your energy into finding peace, then all things become possible.
That said, you are entirely allowed to think you’re right, and know that you’re right, but you just don’t need to SAY it to them! It doesn’t add any value. It’s ego and only fuels the fire of conflict.
STEP #2 – Allow Them Space to Voice Their Viewpoint
Another reason that conflicts arise and continue to grow, is because no one is listening. The people involved tend to all be talking AT each other.
One of the most calming and relieving experiences we can have as a human being, when we’re upset, is for someone to listen and to really hear us.
One of the worst things that we can experience when we’re upset, is having people NOT give us the space to voice our viewpoint and instead shutting us down.
So it’s vital that you allow space for the other person to have their say. Let them share their viewpoint. Don’t interrupt them. Simply be still, silent and listen.
Even if you don’t agree with them at all.
Even if everything they say goes against every value you have, and it’s making you furious.
Even if the things they’re saying aren’t true and are hurtful.
Your job is to manage your reactive thoughts and feelings to whatever they’re saying, and to listen.
Feel your upset inside of your body, and acknowledge that it’s natural to feel that way because the other person’s words or viewpoint clash with your own. And then choose not to fire that upset toward them.
If you want peace, then give them the right to be heard.
Whether or not they honor you and your right to speak uninterrupted in return, you MUST allow this for them if there is any hope of resolution.
Someone has to be the bigger person!
STEP #3 – Speak Only from Calm
Always ensure you are in a relatively calm and centered state before you speak.
In a calm state you have the ability to:
- Clearly articulate your point
- Convey that point with the energy and body language that’s conducive to resolution
- Pick up on subtle body language and facial expression cues from the other person
If you’re not calm, and your emotions take you over, then you may end up saying things you regret, forgetting the whole point of finding resolution, and making things worse.
So, if you end up getting emotionally out of balance, then…
- Take a deep breathe
- Take 5 minutes to calm and re-center yourself (using slow deep breathing is a great support for this)
- If you need longer, take more time (hours/days)
- Then revisit the conversation when you’re calmer
STEP #4 – Speak Only for Resolution
Be very intentional that you focus only on the path FORWARD.
This might be one of the most important steps, because typically in a conflict situation everyone is focused on the problem, not the solution.
And, people are in a “triggered” state about that problem, feeling high emotions. This leads to rehashing the problem over and over again, as well as one other painful habit…
Digging up the past!
Whenever conflict continues unresolved, this is usually because the people involved are constantly dredging up what has happened before. Using the other person’s past digressions to attack them.
As you know, it’s painful to have other people remind you of your past issues and things you could have done better. You’re most likely well aware of those things, and don’t need to be told! It doesn’t help you move forward positively.
And the same goes in return… when you’re seeking to create resolution to conflict, don’t dredge up the past or rehash what the other person said or did, or didn’t say and do.
Speak only for resolution. Focus your attention on looking forward.
STEP #5 – Be Clear on the Potential Solutions
Before you have any conversation about resolving conflict, take time to think about possible ways forward – options that would work for you and the other person.
You want to identify common ground – ideas that could be win win for all involved, compromises that would help you “meet in the middle”.
When you enter a conversation already clear on options and paths forward, you ADD value.
Instead of turning up with problems, you’re turning up with solutions.
That way, if the conversation turns sour, you can easily refocus yourself and the other person onto possible solutions, because you’ve mapped them out clearly.
STEP #6 – Be Invested in Getting a Solution that Serves BOTH of You
Finally, something that will make all the difference when resolving conflict. And it’s a “Negotiation 101” tactic.
Be very interested in getting a solution that serves BOTH you and the other person.
If you’re only interested in yourself, and getting what you want, and they’re doing the same, then no one has their eye on creating a mutually beneficial solution.
In that case, conflict is sure to continue.
- Think WE, not me
- Think US, not I
- Use words that show you’re invested in everyone getting a positive outcome
- For example, “How can WE find a way forward? There must be a way that TOGETHER we can create peace. It benefits US both to resolve this.”
Choose one relationship conflict you have in your life right now.
Study the above 6 steps in relation to that particular issue and create a plan for how you will communicate with the other person.
Then, once you feel clear in your plan, it’s time to start the peace process.
Reach out to them and practice your new steps.