6 Basic Tips for Handling Conflict

6 Basic Tips for Handling Conflict by Susan Ingram

{3:06 minutes to read}

While conflict in our lives is inevitable, how we handle it is ultimately our choice. That’s true whether we’re dealing with conflict in our private lives (with our partner, children, other family members, friends) or in our work lives (with our colleagues or other professionals).

Here are some basic tips for resolving conflict in a positive and constructive manner:

1. Listen to what the other person has to say. That means really hearing their words, having good eye contact and being inquisitive about what they’re saying. Too often, we’re so busy framing our own rebuttal that we don’t truly hear what’s been said. Pay attention and be totally present to the conversation.

2. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. With an “I” statement, you are telling the other person what is going on with you. With a “you” statement, you are placing blame on the other person and making him or her feel defensive. So, for example, it’s better to say, “I need help preparing the kids for bed” instead of “You never help put the kids to bed.”

3. Be open to a different perspective. Instead of immediately proceeding to “combat mode” – where everything is represented as being either black or white – try to understand that there may be shades of gray. Your side of the story is not necessarily the only version. It’s helpful to see the problem from the other person’s perspective as well.

4. Focus on interests, not positions. Positions are rigid and do not look at the underlying needs of both parties. Interests, instead, get to the heart of the matter and address a person’s true needs and concerns. For instance, if you have a need for autonomy and independence, there may be a way to structure your involvement in a work project that honors that need, while also holding you accountable to the larger group.

5. Explore options together. Be open to there being a number of choices/options that could benefit both parties to the discussion. Be creative and open-minded as you look at various approaches and solutions.

6. Look forward, not back. Try not to get entangled in old history and grievances between you and the other party. That will keep you stuck in the past and unable to resolve your issues. If you concentrate on how things can be better going forward, you’re more likely to come up with a viable and lasting solution.

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