By: James Kent, PSYD, MBA
Conflict resolution skills are essential for healthy relationships. Whether it is deciding on a restaurant as a family, discussing politics, choosing whose turn it is to do the dishes, or managing a relationship with a difficult coworker, conflict is a normal part of everyday life.
The consequences of mismanaging conflict can be severe. Conflict is capable of ruining relationships and causing deep, emotional wounds. It may be surprising to hear that conflict is also an opportunity for deepening relationships through intimacy and connection.
You may have heard it said before that a certain amount of conflict is necessary and even helpful within relationships. However, it is also true that experiences with conflict often seem very negative. Like me, many of you may feel hurt or misunderstood and become emotionally reactive and defensive in the midst of conflict. That is because areas of tension in relationships involve different perspectives that are personal to us, which is why conflict often provokes an impassioned response.
Conflict occurs whenever people disagree over their values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. For example, my 2-1/2-year-old daughter, like most 2 to 3-year-olds, desires control and independence. When her need for independence combines with a sassy (but cute) and stubborn attitude, she becomes laser-focused on what she wants. Often times, I want her to be compliant, especially knowing what I am asking of her is a good thing, like telling her not to walk into the street.
So whether with a 2-year-old or your spouse, it is good to know a few things about conflict resolution if you want to navigate relationships well.
Here Are a Few Tips to Consider When Facing Conflict:
- Don’t be a thermometer, be a thermostat. Set the tone as best you can and remember that you can be emotional without being loud, pushy, or out of control.
- Work to know your emotions and why they happen. Take a time-out if you need time to figure them out.
- No name-calling or derogatory statements (like gasoline, this increases fire).
- Listen well. Most of us are not very good listeners. Simply listening to understand can be very helpful in resolving conflict. The opposite would be listening to catch or incriminate.
- Respect the opinions of others and do not try to force them to agree with you. Differences are not bad; they are just different.
- Prioritize the other person (or persons) more than your desire to be right or win the argument.
- Remember that a significant amount of communication is nonverbal, so avoid eye rolls and other unhelpful gestures.
- Ask for some time and walk away if the conversation is not being productive. It is better to take a break and avoid nasty comments or bad outcomes.
These are just a few ways you can work on improving your conflict resolution skills. This list is by no means exhaustive or the most important areas of conflict resolution. These are some of the most common challenges or deficiencies I see when helping patients with conflict resolution.
The ability to manage conflict is a skill that must be used and practiced. If it is not your strong suit, good news, you can improve. With so much uncertainty and conflict in the world today, we need to focus on uniting and resolving conflict with others more than ever. Whether the COVID-19 pandemic, problems related to social justice, or an argument with your spouse, we can improve our circumstances when we focus on resolving conflict and working together.
For much more on conflict resolution skills, visit helpguide.org, which was the source for this blog post.
Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not as medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding counseling or mental health, please contact Psychology & Counseling to make an appointment.
At Psychology & Counseling, we offer counseling and mental health assessments. Following diagnosis, we work with you to determine the best course of treatment and counseling for you. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at (601) 261-1650.
 Segal, J., Robinson, L., & Smith, M. (2019, June). Conflict Resolution Skills. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/conflict-resolution-skills.htm