How To Manage Conflict

Conflict is unavoidable in every relationship as well as internally.Conflict signals an opportunity for change and growth, as well as improved understanding and better communication, whether it be with yourself or others.Conflict is part of our daily lives and it is important to facilitate discussion and come to a resolution.

Step 1: The issue should be identified.

To clarify the issue, analyze the conflict.Conflicts can seem very complicated and can be visualized as a web of different issues with lots of twists and turns.One or two central issues at the heart of the conflict can help you focus your position and better articulate your concerns, if you reflect carefully on the situation.What event or moment triggered the conflict?What are you not getting?Are you afraid of losing?Is your anger appropriate to the situation?Make a list of the issues you are aware of and then note the ones that overlap and are connected.The overlap should help you identify the main theme fairly quickly if you can’t spot it immediately.

Step 2: The key players should be identified.

It’s important to know who the main people involved in the conflict are.Are you directing your anger at that person or somewhere else?Knowing who to address is more important than knowing what toaddress in order to effectively manage conflict.The person should be separated from the problem.It is better to view the problem as a specific behavior or set of circumstances rather than a personality.This approach will make the problem more manageable and will allow you to keep your relationship with that person.

Step 3: Speak to your concerns.

Let the other person know how you feel about the problem.This will help keep the conversation on your needs and emotions, rather than attacking the other person.Use “I”-based statements to help with this, such as “When you describe the problem, I feel…”Use neutral language.When people engage in conflict, they use inflammatory language such as profanity, name calling, and put-down.The language pushes the conversation away from the issues at hand.Use neutral or more objective language to make the conversation less emotional.Be specific.To help the person understand what you mean, give them two or three concrete scenarios.If you feel ignored by a friend, give a specific example such as “I was really hurt when you left my birthday party early to hang out with your other friends instead of spending more time with me.”

Step 4: An active listener is someone who listens.

One of the most powerful listening tools is active listening.It promotes positive, open and non-threatening communication and is appropriate for everyday life.Ensuring your understanding is the only goal of active listening.One way to be a good active listener is to focus on the other person.Set an intention to make what the other person is saying important to you.Listening helps bring the conflict to resolution.Keep it steady but not aggressive eye contact.Don’t use body language that suggests judgement or anger.You want the other person to feel like he can trust you because you are here to collect information.The other person should have enough time to speak.If you want to save your comments or follow-up questions after he has finished outlining his position, try not to interrupt.Encourage the person with simple affirming comments.Give a nod and say, “I can understand how that would be upsetting.”A simple “mmhmm” can let the person know you are with him.The continuation of dialogue can be encouraged by comments and gestures.Represent your feelings.Show understanding for the other person’s position as well as a general understanding that you are both human beings.Pay attention to the signals coming from the outside.Learn how to read body language, including how they sit, their tone of voice, and their facial expressions.The things people do with their bodies can be more telling than words.

Step 5: It is necessary to reflect.

Conflict is often caused by one party feeling that they are not being heard or understood.It is possible to manage conflicts by demonstrating that you have heard what the other person has said.Take some time to think about what the other person has said.This will help you tell the other person that he has been heard and understood.If you’re having a conflict with a co-worker at your company and you just let the person speak, sum up and reflect back his concerns, you feel as though you were overlooked for the new project.

Step 6: To resolve, you have to work together.

As a means of resolution, each person needs to stop blaming the other and both need to take ownership of the problem.To effectively resolve the conflict, make a commitment to work together.Move past positions can help you and the person you are in conflict with reach an agreement or resolution.A “position” is the outcome of a conflict that is usually nonnegotiable.”I want a new roommate or I refuse to work with this person anymore” is a position.Each party needs to move beyond their positions in order to resolve the conflict.The focus should be on the present and the future.Past wrongs and past behaviors are the focus of conflicts.Regardless of what happened in the past, both of you need to focus on how you can alleviate and improve this problem now and into the future.Be imaginative.It’s not easy to come to a resolution that will satisfy everyone equally, and often requires some flexibility and clever thinking.If you and your roommate decide to start buying all of your own groceries separately, who will pay for shared items, agreements that are too early in the conflict management process will not last.Think “outside the box” with a bunch of options and alternatives.The resolution of the conflict should be specific.To solve a conflict with another person, make sure to be precise and specific.If you are having a conflict with your roommate, the two of you may have come up with a written agreement.If the agreement states that you have to clean the toilet twice a week, do you understand that?Once you clarify any questions or ambiguous points, you should sign the agreement.

Step 7: Agree to disagree

Every person has a different point of view.It’s important that you don’t try to figure out which one is right.Being right won’t help resolve the conflict.It’s important to keep in mind that truth is relative; what one person considers to be true is not necessarily what another considers the truth.It depends on a person’s point of view, for example, the differing testimony of various witnesses who all saw the same car accident but may have seen it from different angles.

Step 8: Know when to give up.

Some issues can’t be solved to the satisfaction of both parties if one party is unwilling to negotiate.How much the issue at the core of the conflict matters to you and whether you are willing to concede or keep dialoguing to reach a different resolution are two questions you have to ask yourself.Is the issue of real and material important?It may be difficult on your ego if you ask this.If the other party refuses to budge and you realize it is more important to him than to yourself, then it may be time to reach out and end the conflict.It doesn’t have to be dramatic.When we talked about the scheduling difference, I heard what you were saying.I am willing to put the disagreement to rest because I think you may feel more strongly on the issue than I do.I will support you on keeping to the schedule we have set.

Step 9: Take some time to think.

The other party should be given time to think over his argument.The other party should not be left hanging.The discussion can be picked up again if you specify a day and time.You can ask the other person to think about your position as well.Try to understand the other person’s position and why it matters to him during this break.How would you negotiate with someone like you?Reanalyze your own point of view as well.Is there areas where you could bend but still maintain what matters most to you?Send a nonthreatening and objective summary to the other party of your last discussion if this is a business, professional or work related conflict.It serves as a reminder of your own angle and can demonstrate a professional approach should the issue be taken out of context.It is a mode of accountability for both parties.

Step 10: Confidentiality needs to be maintained.

Discuss your conflict only with you and the other party.The person you are in conflict with should always be dealt with directly.It can lead to the spreading of rumors if you avoid the conflict and/or vent to others.

Step 11: Please forgive.

Even if it’s impossible to forget what happened, you have to find a place that will allow you to forgive the other person.It will be the easiest path towards resolution and cooperation in the future, and it is the mature way to go.If you can’t forgive the other person, you have to find a way to manage your relationship.Strong character and compassion are needed to forgive someone.If you can forgive someone who hurt you, then you should be proud of yourself for being able to move on.Encourage the other party to work out a plan to end the gossip if rumors are already circulating.

Step 12: Ask someone else for help.

If you feel that you’re getting nowhere and are only making things worse, then consider asking for help in managing this conflict, whether you decide to consult a manager, seek counseling or ask a close mutual friend.A third party can give a better perspective on a situation where two people feel so invested that they can’t think straight.

Step 13: Understand the nature of a personal conflict.

In other words, internal or personal conflicts are not “we-conflicts” because they don’t involve another person.Internal conflicts can be related to your own feelings, thoughts or decisions.You might be jealous of the new promotion your best friend received.You want the best for your friend, but you can’t shake your jealousy.The conflict isn’t with a friend, but with your own emotions.Conflicts can be a powerful motivating force in our lives.It is what drives us to find new ways to grow.

Step 14: The conflict can be identified.

Do you know what is causing you to have emotional reactions?Keeping a journal is a good way to keep track of what you’ve been doing.You can consult a journal as you try to uncover the reason for your internal conflict.Minor and mundane decisions about whether or not to eat organic lunches, quitting smoking, and changing careers are some of the major life decisions that can lead to personal conflict.

Step 15: You should try to get to the root of the conflict.

Cognitive dissonance is a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors that is related to many conflicts people have with themselves.According to cognitive dissonance theory, we all have an inner drive to hold our attitudes and beliefs in harmony with our actions to avoid disharmony.Let’s say you feel sad over a break up, even though you thought you did it yourself.Your emotions do not align with your actions.Let’s say you know that smoking is bad for your health, but you still smoke.Smoking does not align with what you know about smoking.

Step 16: Accept your own feelings.

No one can make you feel anything.Ultimately, your feelings are yours, even if you don’t have emotions or feelings in reaction to someone else’s words or actions.Be aware of and “own” your feelings, even the negative emotions like sadness, loneliness, grief, and heartbreak.The first step in resolving internal conflicts is acknowledging your emotions.

Step 17: Give yourself time.

You will eventually untie yourself from the knots of indecisiveness, insecurity, and/or denial if you embrace the struggle.You’ve been here before on other subjects, and you made it through.Allow yourself some time.People don’t like to give time because quick and easy decisions are so gratifying.Time is your best friend when it comes to personal changes.We can examine the issue and ensure we are handling the emotions in a way that is productive.

Step 18: Consider your options.

Changing beliefs, changing action or changing perception of action can be used to deal with cognitive dissonance.Think about what led you to the break up in the case of a sad break-up.Reflecting on the conflict can help you realize that you did the right thing, not the person who treated you so badly.In the case of smoking while knowing it’s bad for your health, many smokers have developed all kinds of way to rationalize and justify their behavior to ward off those feelings of internal conflict.Some smokers say that it helps calm their stress, that they smoke “light” cigarettes which are “healthier”, and so on.Some smokers can change their actions and stop smoking.Evaluate your options while being your own therapist.What is the worst thing that could happen if I continued to smoke?If I hadn’t broken up with him, would I be happy?Am I jealous of my friend, or am I struggling with the fact that my own work situation isn’t progressing?You know the right questions to ask if you are wrestling with the issue.What questions would you pose to help you sort through your conflict?

Step 19: Discuss your conflict with someone.

If you already struggle with figuring out your thoughts, feelings, and needs, it can be difficult to handle personal conflicts.Depression can also be caused by it.Communication with someone, such as a friend or family member, can help alleviate your anxiety.Talk to a mental health professional who can help you develop effective internal conflict management strategies if you feel unable to resolve your conflict.