Handling Conflict

Handling Conflict in Your Life


Let’s face it.  Conflict is going to happen in your life – possibly even daily.  It will occur at work, home, and in the community.  How you handle it will have a large impact on the quality of your life.

Some people thrive on conflict.  If it doesn’t exist, they will create it simply for the thrill of the drama.  They tend to be very loud and use explosive, if not obscene, language to draw attention to themselves.  They believe that the loudest person will win the argument.  And, as we become embarrassed by their display, they ramp up the volume.

Others find conflict so distasteful that they give in automatically to the person they are having a disagreement with.  They are even willing to give up their rights if they can avoid those ugly scenes.

An effective way to respond to conflict is to manage it. Here are a few steps to take to handle conflict without losing your cool or your rights:

  1. The first step is to speak with the person(s) you have a conflict with and state the truth:  “We don’t agree on this.”  Simply make clear what the issue is without assigning any blame.
  2. Make a statement about what you hope a conversation would lead to:  “I would like to talk about this with you and see if we can come up with a solution.  We work together every day and it would be nice if we could get along.”
  3. Now, the most difficult step.  Be quiet.  Listen without interrupting them.  And listen in order to get a complete understanding of where they are coming from.  Allow yourself to be influenced by what they say.  Do not listen just to debate.
  4. Next, prove to them that you listened with the honest intention of understanding.  Summarize what they have said back to them.  “So, you feel that I was putting you down when I said that.”  Or,  “You don’t like it when I do that because then you have to pick up the slack.”
  5. Now that you have invested the energy to understand their viewpoint, agree with whatever you can.  “Oh, I didn’t realize that you had to be the one who finished that up.  Now I see why you are frustrated with me.”
  6. And, now, the most important step.  Let what they said sit with you for a bit.  Does what you now understand change your opinion in anyway?   Those who take the time to give serious consideration to what the other person said are those most likely to come up with a solution or compromise.
  7. It is now your time to respond with your feelings and opinions.  Don’t use this time to jab back at some of the comments they may have made that you found offensive. Stick with the issue – even if they haven’t.   Talk about the problem – not them.
  8. Keep calm.  If they are fired up and you add fuel to that fire with your anger, it will only make things worse.  Nothing will get resolved.
  9. Regardless of the outcome, I suggest you end by shaking hands or at least making a statement of appreciation for their willingness to have an honest discussion with you.
  10. And, again, regardless of the outcome, do not ignore this person later or talk about them behind their back.  Treat them with the respect and courtesy you would like to receive from them.

Fix the problem, not the blame.

Karen Wrolson, MS, MEd

Stein Counseling and Consulting Services, Ltd.