Life is full of conflict but it doesn’t have to consume your relationships, these tips will encourage you to resolve conflict more quickly and develop peaceful communication and relationships. I have developed this insight on how to resolve conflicts through some of the challenges that I have encountered myself and when done consistently, they work!
Are you in the proper space for conflict resolution?
- Am I “working this out” to prove my point or to make the other partner feel as hurt as I do?
- Am I “working this out” out of love and a desire for peaceful connection?
For me, this is the most important step! If you are still angry your feelings are important but you must wait till you are in the right space to respond in a way that will be beneficial for the situation. Even in an argument that I was wronged, It is still my responsibility to respond in a healthy way. If I come back to my partner yelling and accusing (even if I feel my accusations are correct) I am only harming the situation. I must take a deep breath and respectfully remove myself until I am able to respond calmly, in a way that will defuse the situation and cultivate love and understanding. It is not until both parties are willing to communicate in this space with a desire for a resolution that change can happen and feelings and relationships can begin to be repaired.
I hate being in conflict, especially with those who are very near to my heart, so this one is very difficult for me. I have a tendency to push towards a solution too soon before both parties have accomplished step one. I must remember that pushing for a solution right away is not helpful and I need to give myself and my other party time to be in the right peacemaking mental space. I find that if I do not wait to complete step one, I am more likely to lash out and say things that I don’t mean, only adding more negativity to the situation.
I feel statements – a template for expressing your feelings when it doesn’t come easily.
* I feel _______ (genuine, deep, primary emotion) when you _______(action taken against you). I imagine I feel this way because ____________ ( explanation for why you feel the way that you do).
This may feel silly at first but sometimes in a conflict, you just don’t know where to start and that is Okay! With a little practice, this is one of the most helpful tools that I have learned and applies to almost any situation. Here are a few examples:
What to do –
I feel scared when you unexpectedly leave during a disagreement. I imagine I feel that way because I had a parent leave when I was a child. I know you are upset and are just asking for space but can we agree on an alternative way to ask for space when we need it. Like saying “I am going to have a quiet time and I will be back when I have calmed down.”
What NOT to do –
I feel angry when you leave during a disagreement. I imagine I feel this way because you are a jerk and you always push my buttons.
The first sentence is where you express how your feeling. Try to tap into the deep primary emotion. I often find that the more vulnerable and honest I am able to be, the more that sets the tone and allows the other person to do the same. When we are both open and honest it creates a safe space to dive into the true feelings behind the conflict, maybe we both had a long day at work and now the stress is coming out at home without us realizing it. If we are able to feel safe enough to open up then a lot of these underlying issues are able to surface to be dealt with.
The second sentence is where you have a chance to explain why you think you are feeling this way. This is not a chance to place the all the blame on other people, this is another chance to look deep inside yourself and examine what the situation brought up for you and help explain why you are upset. It is often something that you didn’t initially realize until you stopped to check in with yourself, this encourages great self-awareness. Possibly, the other party made fun of your hair in an innocent way but you are extra sensitive about it today because you had a difficult morning with the kids and didn’t have a chance fix it like you had intended. Maybe at first you just thought your friend was being mean but on further introspection, you realize she loves you whether your hair is a mess but that you are sensitive about not having enough time to take care of yourself lately. Taking the time to think about this will give you more insight on what is going on with yourself and how you can make some changes and sharing this with her gives her an understanding of where you are coming from and how to help you in the future.
When the other party is talking, listen and do not interrupt. Everyone’s feelings are valid and it is important to hear them make them feel important. Ask questions and show concern. Create a space for them to open up about true issues and feelings at hand because it is only after these have been expressed and heard can we start moving towards resolution and healing.
When you have thoroughly listened to the feelings of the other party, validate them. Repeat what you heard back to them. This serves two purposes, the first is to give them the ability to clarify that what you heard is in fact what they intended to convey. The majority of time arguments and disagreements start with a miscommunication.
Own your own part
Admit any mistakes you made, even if it is a group error or you have been wronged, usually there is something you could have done to improve the situation. Be honest, transparent and sincere. When offering an apology do not use a BUT! For example, when you are apologizing for yelling and then say “but you make me so angry when you spilled your dinner on purpose” you are essentially not taking any responsibility for yelling and just placing blame. Yes, it is not okay to spill your dinner and parenting can be frustrating. I am guilty of yelling a more often then I like to admit, but this is an excellent situation to model conflict resolution and proper apologies to your children. Try and separate your apology from the way you feel so instead you could say, ”I am sorry for yelling, I will work on responding more calmly. It is not okay to spill your dinner and I need you to help clean it up.”
Take a break
If at any point progress is not being made and tensions and voices start to rise, take a step back and re-group. Revisit step one and remember that your intentions for the conversation were to work towards a solution and a more peaceful relationship. Once both parties are ready again revisit the conversation.
Make a commitment to a solution
Ask each other, “What can we do to make it right?” Both parties should have an answer to this. Perhaps one person could make a commitment to change their actions and the other person can make a commitment to support them in the process.
How far am I willing to go to resolve this? How important is it to you that this issue is resolved? Sometimes a compromise is necessary and you need to pick your battles wisely. If the other party listened but not as well as you hoped sometimes it is okay to let it go with the intention of reaching a resolution. Remember that these things take time and baby steps are better than no steps!
Do something fun together
Build some positive experiences together and create a space for bonding. Active or outside activities are often best as they help release endorphins and improve mood. The point here is to balance out the disagreements with some fun and to let your partner, child or friend know that your relationship with them is more important than a disagreement. Show them you are invested in your relationship with them.
Stick with It
Change does not happen overnight. Keep working and be patient with yourself and your partner and remember that the hard work and investment in healthy relationships are well worth it!
Ask for help when necessary and remove yourself from a situation where you or your family are not safe
Although I strongly believe in all the tips I have listed and they have helped me a great deal in many life situations, I am not a professional. Please seek professional help when you need it and I believe everyone can benefit from good emotional and mental care! Although it can be difficult and scary to remove yourself from a situation where you or your family are not safe if you need help find a support group in your area. You are worth it!