It's completely normal for a relationship to experience some form of conflict from time to time. Rather than trying to avoid conflict entirely, a more constructive approach is learning how to manage conflict effectively when it arises.
Here are five strategies to help you manage conflict effectively. In the process, you'll find that your relationships become stronger and healthier.
1. Hold off on responding when you're angry or highly emotional.
Speaking in the heat of anger can cause irreparable damage. We aren't thinking clearly when our emotions are running high, and it's easy to use words that are unnecessarily mean, hurtful, or spiteful.
You'll do all of your relationships a huge favour by training yourself to hold off on responding when you're angry or highly emotional. Don't call, text, email, or otherwise confront the person you're upset with until you've had a chance to calm down. This might mean taking a few deep breaths and counting to ten; or it might mean giving yourself a few days to clear your head.
Note: in come cases, it can be helpful to let the other person know you're taking some time to think about things before responding, so they know you're not dismissing them or giving them the silent treatment.
2. Become an active listener.
When we prioritize getting our own point across, it limits our ability to listen to others. We start to race ahead in our minds, formulating our response while the other person is still speaking.
Active listening is a powerful technique for diffusing conflict. It builds trust and establishes a bond between individuals. It enables clearer, richer, more accurate communication. It conveys that you genuinely care about and wish to understand the other person, as you:
When you become an active listener, the other person doesn't have to "fight" to be heard. This makes it easier for them to speak freely, clearly and calmly, enabling you to gain additional insight and understanding.
3. Speak to the issue; don't resort to insults or attacks on the other person.
No-one responds well when they feel like they're being attacked, insulted, or treated disrespectfully. It elicits an instinct of wanting to protect oneself, which then takes priority over the issue that needs to be resolved. Avoid this by speaking to the issue at hand and how it made you feel, rather than labeling the other person or making assumptions about their intent.
Consider the following, which comes across as a personal attack: "You're so selfish! You never think about how your actions will affect me!"
Whereas the following statement expresses how you feel without insulting or labeling, and speaks directly to the issue at hand: "I felt hurt and disappointed that you made plans for the weekend without discussing things with me first."
4. Recognize that differing viewpoints lead to different observations and conclusions.
How often have you been surprised that someone didn't see things the same way you did? How many times have you been baffled (or frustrated) when others seemed oblivious to things that were obvious to you?
Every person has their own unique viewpoint, i.e.: the point/place from which they are looking out at the world and viewing situations. This means two people can arrive at very different conclusions while observing the same situation; and what may be obvious to one may be imperceptible to the other.
When you recognize that differing viewpoints are normal and to be expected, you're less likely to take offence or assume malicious intent.
5. Be assertive and take responsibility for your own actions.
Issues often arise when we fail to be assertive or don't take full responsibility for our own actions.
For example, we may feel put out by demands being thrust upon us, yet we continue to acquiesce without speaking up. Or, we tolerate repeated instances of inappropriate behaviour, rather than establishing and enforcing boundaries.
You can't control what other people say and do. However, you can decide how you will respond and what you will put up with. Acknowledge your own agency:
As you assert yourself and take responsibility for your behaviour, you'll find that many issues don't have an opportunity to escalate. You'll also send a message to people around you regarding your sense of self-worth and self-respect. In doing so, you'll attract likeminded people who are on the same wavelength.
Enjoy healthier and more satisfying relationships by learning how to distinguish between consideration vs. capitulation.
Discover key characteristics of healthy compromise.
Image Credits: StockSnap from Pixabay
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