Conflict happens. Period. There’s no escaping it, no matter how hard you try. Even silly, trivial things can flare up into full-blown arguments. It’s crazy.
Since we can’t eliminate conflict, we should at least know effective ways to deal with it, starting with creating healthy boundaries and balancing our emotions to reduce unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Here are five steps for handling and reducing conflict for a happier, more peaceful life.
1. Identify the Source
Where’s the conflict coming from?
You’ll be trapped in an endless cycle of conflict until you identify and deal with the source.
Conflict resolution 101: You can’t fix a problem until you know what the problem is.
Sounds simple, right? Then why do so many people evade or avoid their problems?
Evading or avoiding the problem makes it worse and keeps you stuck in a relentless cycle of conflict, which is no way to live.
By identifying the root cause of the problem, everyone involved can work to fix it, so it stops happening.
2. Be Brave and Talk
The thing about conflict is that you can’t let it fester. So once you’ve identified the root issue, find a safe, quiet place to talk about it.
(Sometimes, a safe, quiet place might be a counselor’s or therapist’s office.)
Not talking about it makes it worse. The issue will keep growing and growing until it blows up in your face.
Remember that we’re not talking about something as simple as having a difference of opinion that leads to a minor, harmless disagreement. We’re talking about full-blown conflict.
When you sit down to discuss the matter with the other person, how you communicate makes all the difference.
How you say something is as important what you say.
Be brave and have the courage to face the issue; deal with it if you want a better life.
3. Listen to Understand
Active listening is listening to understand the other person, which plays a huge role in conflict resolution. How you listen makes the issue better or much worse.
Be patient. Let the other person speak. And really listen.
Do not interrupt them – interrupting is a sign of close-mindedness, defensiveness, and disrespect.
Respect their point of view, opinions, and feelings; let them be heard and make their point.
Treat them how you want to be treated in the conversation so they will give you the courtesy of listening when it’s your turn.
4. Share Solutions
After each person has shared what’s on their heart, it’s time for compromise and mutually agreed upon solutions.
It’s okay to list solutions on paper; brainstorm options together.
Write out all your ideas, even the crazy ones, because sometimes they are the ones that trigger thoughts that lead to creative solutions.
Focus on the solution to make this work; don’t focus on the other person; don’t make it personal.
Focusing on the problem makes everyone feel safe and lowers defenses, paving the way for people to find solutions instead of being defensive and justifying their actions.
Criticizing and judging will get you nowhere.
5. Implement the Best Solution
After rolling up your sleeves and finding common ground, agree on the best solution and implement it.
Finding and implementing solutions is easier if everyone feels heard and considered.
Each person must set clear and reasonable expectations, which can only happen when you truly listen to and respect each other’s differences and points of view.
Approach conflict as an opportunity to grow, not something to avoid or a fight to the death.
Conflict resolution can reveal helpful insights if appropriately managed, strengthening your relationships because you will become more attuned to the needs of those around you.
Once you muster the courage to open the communication lines by facing the conflict, take the time to really listen, and collaborate on solutions, it’s all downhill from there.
Everyone will feel safe to speak their mind and share their ideas in a genuine effort to move forward in a way that’s healthy and mutually satisfying for everyone involved as they continue unlocking their best lives.