As much as we would love to live in a world without conflict, that is just not reality. Not everyone will share your opinion on a subject – that’s why it’s important to practice great conflict resolution tips. Your children are not always going to follow the rules. There will be days it seems your spouse is doing everything in their power to drive you crazy. And even your closest friends might push your buttons sometimes.
I’ve talked before about how life sometimes gets messy. Fighting with those closest to you doesn’t need to be grounds for running away if you know how to fight fair. It’s never easy, but if you know how to resolve conflict in the right way, you can defuse a tough situation with conflict resolution and who knows, the results of the fight might be far better than you could ever imagine.
One of the hardest things to do when you are confronted with negative feedback is to stay calm and level headed. It’s easy to let our emotions get the better of us and lead a conversation. If that happens, pause for a moment. Take a deep breath. Ask for a moment to process what’s being said. If you react solely on emotion, you may come to regret the things you say or do in conflict.
Make sure you watch your words. As cliché as it sounds, it’s important to use “I” phrases instead of “you” phrases in conflict resolution. In college, I was getting help for anxiety issues and my doctor told me that by using “I” phrases it enabled me to bring up emotions that the other person was unable to take away from me. If I said “I feel like I am not cared about” then I was taking ownership for my feelings instead of saying “You make me feel unimportant” and placing blame on someone else. Your feelings are valid. It’s just vital to express them the right way.
Let the other person speak. As much as what you are feeling is important the same goes for your partner. Listen without interruption when they are trying to express how they feel. I know it’s easy to want to defend yourself when someone says that they feel like you are lacking in some way. But if you are willing to really listen to what they are saying it will help you to get to the heart of the matter much quicker than if you steamroll over them and make them feel as though what they are saying doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t want your partner to do that to you so it goes back to the golden rule we’re taught as kids: treat others as you want them to treat you, ESPECIALLY when resolving conflict.
Bring things up when they happen. I don’t mean to be a pest about every little quirk that makes you sigh. Just don’t put off bringing up things because you’re afraid of conflict. I’m guilty of this. I let things just build up, not speaking up about what is bothering me, until all the sudden I’m so angry about how a piece of laundry is put away that my husband is looking for battle gear. It’s never the laundry that actually has me upset, but because I am so afraid to disrupt the balance of things it spills over at the worst times.
Narrow down what issue you are actually fighting about and stick to that. Don’t bring up past fights or indiscretions during conflict resolution. By keeping the argument relevant, you are more likely to get to the bottom of what is causing the stress and be able to fix it. If all you’re doing is bringing the past up as ammunition to build your case for why your opponent is in the wrong, nothing will get resolved. The other person will either feel so defensive they shut down or they will start to list off your faults instead of trying to make things better.
Don’t leave things unresolved once you’ve started the argument. We’ve all heard the advice not to go to bed angry and that’s sort of what I mean by not letting things go unresolved. If you are in a disagreement with someone and walk away with no solution to the problem, then it’s going to fester and become an issue between you again. There is nothing wrong with taking a Marshall and Lily Pause in the middle of a heated fight to regroup, but agree to come back to the conversation when both parties have calmed and had time to think about how to face the problem again.
Understand that there won’t always be a perfect solution. Life is about compromise. Sometimes the fights we have are going to be solved just by agreeing to disagree. I have a good friend who has very different political views than me. He is a very conservative Christian southerner who believes very strongly about things such as gay marriage, gun ownership and racial tension. Our views are almost always polar opposite of each other. This doesn’t make either of us a bad person because we don’t agree. We just know what the other person believes and respect each other for having a strong stance on things, even if it’s not our opinion.
If you’re fighting fair, you understand that a fight shouldn’t be about winning unless you’re Ronda Rousey. Fighting, or having a disagreement, should be about communicating effective conflict resolution when there is a problem that needs to be addressed in order to move forward with a relationship. If you feel as though you’re caught in a loop of repeating the same fight with your spouse, your kids, even a friend, and the techniques you’ve used to fight aren’t working, it might be time to get a professional involved. Fleet and Family Services have trained counselors willing to help couples and families work through problems that they are unable to tackle on their own. They will help you will the skills needed to get through rough patches in a productive manner that will strengthen the relationships you think are beyond repair.
What tips do you and your spouse use to tackle conflict resolution? TELL US!