Conflict is a necessary evil in life. All of us must deal with it at some point or another if we want to have thriving, healthy, and honest relationships. In fact – a lack of conflict can be a signal for apathy in a relationship. If there’s no conflict whatsoever, there’s probably no intimacy, either. Therefore – it’s crucial to learn how to handle conflict so it doesn’t handle you or your relationships.
If you’re more of a video person – not to worry. Coach Elise recorded her five tips on how to handle conflict as part of her Five Tip Friday series. I’ve included it below so you can give it a view, or you can keep reading to learn more about how to handle conflict!
Accept Conflict Happens
Whenever conflict arises, there’s no need to consider it a mark of death to a relationship. Conflict is inevitable, and at times unavoidable. Typically it’s a sign of two parties *caring* about the relationship – not the other way around.
So take conflict as a chance to grow. Think of it as an opportunity to practice openness, honesty, vulnerability, and connection within your relationship. This is your chance to really hear about someone else’s point of view – even if it is in direct opposition to yours. Conflict opens up old wounds and brings clarity to many situations. The more you can frame conflict as an opportunity – instead of a burden – the less detrimental it will be to your life. Because otherwise, if your strategy on how to handle conflict is essentially going to battle – you’re going to lose way too many relationships over something that could have been easily mended.
Use “I Statements”
When managing conflict, be sure to state your feelings open and honestly. Do not beat around the bush – and do not try to blame others for your feelings. Your feelings are yours, and yours alone. No one can “make” you feel a certain way. But, if you choose to bury your feelings and conceal them from the other party, you’re way less likely to find common ground.
One of Elise’s favorite strategies for how to handle conflict is to use “I Statements.” These are messages that center yourself within your feelings and leave little opportunity for someone else to feel defensive. Here is an example below:
“I felt frustrated and ignored when that decision was made for our family without me.”
Use this formula as an example:
“I feel _____ when/because ______.”
Notice there’s no “you” in that statement? None at all.
That’s because when you center someone ELSE in the argument, you are assigning blame. And blame never helped anyone.
So focus on how *you* feel. The more accurate you get when describing your feelings, the quicker the conflict will melt right in front of your cute little faces. Be vulnerable. Be okay with admitting that something hurt your feelings – and don’t be ashamed to say it out loud. The more honest you can be with the other person, the easier it will be to untangle the conflict and move forward in a happy direction. And who knows? Perhaps once you’re honest, the situation won’t ever happen again.
This one can be a toughie, but bear with me.
When you’re listening to the person you are actively disagreeing with, you actually have to listen.
I know. You would rather tune out. But if you want to learn how to handle conflict – this is going to be one of the most crucial elements of the process.
You can’t silently mull over what you’re going to say next. You can’t silently scream expletives at them (even though I’ll agree, it’s better than saying them out loud). You can’t stonewall them and refuse to listen when you expect them to listen back.
So you have to actually open your ears and take in everything they’re saying – no matter how hard it seems.
Saying things like, “I understand,” or “that must feel awful,” or even a simple, “mmhmm” can make all the difference. It can also help you keep your attention focused on the right thing – and not wander off during a particularly heated moment.
Stay present. Stay engaged.
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There is nothing wrong with taking a timeout when a conversation turns tough. That is not quitting or walking away. Instead, taking a break is actually a lovely way to de escalate particularly challenging situations that stir up colorful emotions.
Remember that when you are struggling with how to handle conflict – there is no timeline for when anything needs to be resolved. Both of you could take a five minute break just to focus on your breathing and calm down, or maybe a break could be a week long in order to process deeper feelings.
The important part is to make sure you are not flooded when engaging in conflict. There’s no need to spout off and say something you’re going to regret. We all know that we can’t take back words. It’s impossible to put toothpaste back in the tube. So avoid these delicate situations by taking a time out for as long as you need.
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Agree to Disagree
Not every conflict has to end in agreement.
And – depending on the topic – it can be absolutely fine to agree to disagree. Especially when we are talking about a difference of opinion, and not a difference of values.
Only you can decide if a certain conflict violates a critical boundary – and in those cases – you might have to end a relationship in order to honor a value. But otherwise, there is no rule that says you have to agree with your family, friends, spouse, or co-workers on every little thing under the sun.
In fact, why would you ever want that to happen? Then there would be no opportunity for learning. No opportunity for exposure. No opportunity for debate!
So get off your high horse and accept the notion that you might not be the world’s expert in every topic you come across. Leave room for others to have dissenting opinions, and try not to take that as a personal hit against your ego. If you deserve to have respect and room for your opinions, then so should others 🙂
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Okay lovelies – Elise and I hope this little lesson helps all of you resolve all of the conflict in your life so you can continue to have thriving, healthy relationships! And remember – if you have some particularly challenging conflicts, you can always work one on one with a life coach.