How To Resolve Conflict And Create Great Relationships
We all have disagreements.
We may bicker about or debate our differences but just having a disagreement is not cause for a battle.
Some people take what could be seen as a simple disagreement to the level of a major conflict.
A disagreement between partners could cause a lot of tension or divisiveness, potentially leading to a misunderstanding, major blowout or extended hostility.
For many people, thinking about having a disagreement or confronting a situation can give rise to a lot of stress, anxiety or even dread.
It does not have to come to that!
The Fear Of Conflict
The stakes seem to be even higher when we are facing conflict with a loved one or a business partner.
Emotions typically are more difficult to contain and present roadblocks to engaging in productive conversation about real problems.
One roadblock is holding onto anger and resentment. This can severely influence your attitude.
To optimize a meeting for the purpose of conflict resolution it is wise for partners to learn to foster a more tolerant or forgiving attitude.
Another roadblock to resolving conflict is a lack of communication skills. Many people are unable to express their thoughts and feelings in a way that gets their point across clearly and respectfully – they just don’t know how.
This inability to convey one’s ideas without becoming too emotional can provoke angry or hurt feelings, even though no offense may have been intended.
Importance Of Communication
Good communication is a combination of good attitude and good skill.
When you combine a caring or even tolerant attitude with effective communication skills, you’re on the road to healthy conflict resolution.
I think of relationships as laboratories for personal growth. As with any growing thing, there are often stumbling blocks.
Growing is rarely a problem-free experience. Don’t be timid! Face your issues with courage and common sense. Learning to resolve conflict is essential to the growth of a healthy, long lasting relationship.
What follows are guidelines to address the differences or issues between you and your partner or spouse. These same principles can be applied to both domestic partners as well as business partners.
1) Agree to have a resolution discussion:
Talk to your partner about agreeing to have a productive resolution discussion. This is one where you both agree on a topic (issue) and look for a resolution(s) to your differences. You come together as partners with an equal stake in creating solutions.
Your discussion should be focused on one problem. Each discussion should not take more than 30 minutes and can often take less time. You do not have to totally resolve the issue in one meeting but you can at least begin.
2) Be clear about your objective:
If you are not sure about what you want to discuss, even though you feel like something is bothering you, get clear before you bring it up. If you are dissatisfied and want things to get better then it is your responsibility to identify the issue so that you can talk about it.
If you are going through a personal struggle let your partner know that you are struggling with your own personal issues and that it is not their fault. If your personal issues are getting in the way of resolving differences, get help quickly by seeking advice or getting into counseling.
3) Be accurate and precise:
Having clarity should bring you to the exact issue you want to resolve. Don’t mix things up with a vague, broad discussion about matters that might be tangential to the main point. Choose only one issue at a time for each discussion.
4) Stay on task:
Focus on working through the specific problem without including other ones. There may be a tendency to stray from topic, especially if emotions get turned up. Resist such tendencies!
5) Be calm:
Conflict often engenders powerful feelings. You can learn to be calm when discussing differences if you focus on one single problem. Try to be as objective as possible. It takes discipline to remain in control of your feelings and, if you truly want to succeed in resolving conflict, you need to muster the discipline to be cool and calm.
6) Be rational:
Conflict is frequently about how things are perceived. Perception can be altered or influenced by how we feel. Remaining rational in a discussion can put focus on the substance of the matter, clearing away faulty perceptions and observing things the way they actually are.
7) Be respectful:
Do not use abusive language or a punishing tone in your discussion. Nobody wants to be lectured, or devalued when called upon to work together in resolving problems. Recognize that it will take both of you to agree on a solution and a collaborative alliance is necessary to achieve success.
8) Be open-minded:
There may be ways to negotiate your differences that have not occurred to you. Your partner may point out that you both have roles in creating the problem and resolution calls upon a shift or change you both might need to make. Be prepared to consider all options.
9) Be creative:
There is sometimes a kind of paralysis of thinking that occurs when partners are in a type of emotional gridlock. You need to get out of the feeling of being shut down by suspending your disbelief that the two of you together can make things work. Once you free yourself of those negative thoughts and feelings your creativity will flow.
10) Be positive:
Even differences that cause the most conflict can be resolved if partners come to the table with positive attitudes. No conflict is intractable when couples are ready to negotiate and find solutions.
Long term relationships are not born in some Hollywood studio. They are created and shaped by the partners who forge them out of their love, caring or even need for each other.
There may be times when the challenge of making the relationship better will feel too daunting. It is at that time when you need to take responsibility and lead by example.
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About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples and business partners struggling with all types of conflict