Conflict triggers strong emotions and can lead to hurt feelings, disappointment, and discomfort.
When handled in an unhealthy manner, it can cause irreparable rifts, resentments, and breakups. But when conflict is resolved in a healthy way, it increases our understanding of one another, builds trust, and strengthens our relationship bonds.
Unhealthy responses to conflict are characterized by:
· An inability to recognize and respond to matters of great importance to the other person
· Explosive, angry, hurtful, and resentful reactions
· The withdrawal of love, resulting in rejection, isolation, shame, and fear of abandonment
· The expectation of bad outcomes
· The fear and avoidance of conflict
The ability to successfully manage and resolve conflict depends on four key skills.
Together, these four skills form a fifth skill that is greater than the sum of its parts: the ability to take conflict in stride and resolve differences in ways that build trust and confidence.
Conflict resolution skill 1: Quickly relieve stress
The capacity to remain relaxed and focused in tense situations is a vital aspect of conflict resolution. If you don’t know how to stay centered and in control of yourself, you may become emotionally overwhelmed in challenging situations. The best way to rapidly and reliably relieve stress is through the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. But each person responds differently to sensory input, so you need to find things that are soothing to you.
Conflict resolution skill 2: Recognize and manage your emotions.
Emotional awareness is the key to understanding yourself and others. If you don’t know how you feel or why you feel that way, you won’t be able to communicate effectively or smooth over disagreements. Although knowing your own feelings may seem simple, many people ignore or try to sedate strong emotions like anger, sadness, and fear. But your ability to handle conflict depends on being connected to these feelings. If you’re afraid of strong emotions or if you insist on finding solutions that are strictly rational, your ability to face and resolve differences will be impaired.
Conflict resolution skill 3: Improve your nonverbal communication skills
The most important information exchanged during conflicts and arguments is often communicated nonverbally. Nonverbal communication includes eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice, posture, touch, and gestures. When you’re in the middle of a conflict, paying close attention to the other person’s nonverbal signals may help you figure out what the other person is really saying, respond in a way that builds trust, and get to the root of the problem. Simple nonverbal signals such as a calm tone of voice, a reassuring touch, or a concerned facial expression can go a long way toward defusing a heated exchange.
Conflict resolution skill 4: Use humor and play to deal with challenges
You can avoid many confrontations and resolve arguments and disagreements by communicating in a playful or humorous way. Humor can help you say things that might otherwise be difficult to express without creating a flap. However, it’s important that you laugh with the other person, not at them. When humor and play are used to reduce tension and anger, reframe problems, and put the situation into perspective, the conflict can actually become an opportunity for greater connection and intimacy.
Successful conflict resolution depends on our ability to:
· Manage stress while remaining alert and calm. By staying calm, we can accurately read and interpret verbal and nonverbal communication.
· Control our emotions and behavior. When we are in control of our emotions, we can communicate our needs without threatening, frightening, or punishing others.
· Pay attention to the tone being expressed as well as the spoken words of others.
· Be aware of and respectful of differences. By avoiding disrespectful words and actions, we can resolve the problem faster.