Every relationship has at least a little bit of conflict in it. It just isn’t normal for two people either at home or at work to get along 100% of the time. People come from different backgrounds, religions, and cultures and are brought up with varied outlooks and ideas about how things should be accomplished. So, it’s inevitable that there will be instances when you disagree with your spouse; loved one or co-worker and a struggle between the two of you will arise. It’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can touch off strong emotions and when handled in a healthy way it can strengthen the relationship by building trust and increasing your understanding of one another. Individuals with strong conflict resolution skills generally have high emotional intelligence, an understanding of how to forgive and move on, and the ability to compromise and not always have to be right.
When a disagreement arises and is not handled appropriately, it can lead to hurt feelings, disappointment, sadness, and resentment and can permanently breakdown relationships. It’s considered unhealthy and abusive if the argument becomes physically aggressive, verbally humiliating or if you are worried about other retaliations like stalking, sexual assault, financial punishment or someone else getting hurt because of the riff between the two of you. Honestly, chronic unresolved discord causes stress for the participants as well as everyone around them like bosses, employees, spouses and children.
The thing that sets good marriages, life-long friendships and strong leaders apart from the rest is that the people involved have learned how to harness the conflict and turn it into harmony. There are clear-cut skills to resolving conflict in a positive way. They often require creativity and the willingness to accept a compromise rather than it having to be one way. It isn’t just about getting the best resolution for me, but how it can be solved for both of us. Strong conflict resolution skills include:
1. Respond instead of react. Take some time to cool down and think about the situation. People who react in the heat of the moment often say things that they regret later and don’t necessarily mean. Utilize stress relief tools like breathing deeply or taking a quick walk outside.
2. Start with a good frame of mind. You should go into the discussion with a trustful, honest and respectful attitude. Remember that there is more than one way to solve a problem and try to understand the other’s point of view. This helps put the other person at ease and contributes to a more compromising atmosphere.
2. Clear and effective communication. Explain how you feel using “I” statements that don’t blame the other person, rather than “you”. Speak calmly, non-aggressively and respectfully by stating how “I” perceive the situation. For example, “I feel frustrated whenever you leave all the dishes on the table in the morning instead of putting them in the sink because it causes me to be late for work. It would really help me if you could rinse them and put them in the dishwasher.” Instead of, “You are such a slob and always leave the dirty dishes on the table!” This helps in the workplace as well by stating the problem without putting blame on the other person. It gives them a way to help you solve the problem without having to take the blame for it.
3. Listen closely. Being able to stay calm and listen to the other side (or both sides) of the argument helps the other person feel like you respect their point of view. An effective listening skill is to restate in your own words what the other person has said so you are clear that you understood them correctly.
4. Identify the problem and seek a solution. Discuss different ways to go about solving the problem. Sometimes this might mean taking some degree of responsibility for the issue. Evaluate possible outcomes. If you can’t decide on one, then there may be no resolution at this time. At this point either agree to disagree, or agree that this time someone will “win” and the other person will back down the next time.
5. Stay on task. Don’t bring past arguments or additional issues into the resolution of the conflict at hand.
Keep in mind that the solution you initially come up with may not always work as well as you hoped. Continue the conversation to “check-in” and see if revisions need to be made. Conflict resolution is not a perfect science but by utilizing these tools, you will have a good chance to keep your marriage together, improve your employment potential and reduce your overall level of anger and resentment.