Conflict will always be a part of our lives – personally and professionally. There will always be stress and tension at home and in the workplace. It’s a natural occurrence between human interaction in relationships and groups.
However, many people get highly distressed when conflict arises and will do anything to stop it, avoid it or just ignore it. It’s because they never learned how to deal with problems and their emotions that come with it. When someone opposes or argues against what we’re doing or saying, we may feel threatened, angry, anxious or stressed.
But it’s important to know that there are two kinds of conflict: healthy and unhealthy. One works for us and the other works against us.
Healthy conflict allows us to grow, move forward and come to an understanding or comprising result for both parties in a win-win situation. When we practice respect, fairness and make an effort with the other person, it helps to strengthen the relationship so we become closer to each other. Try to participate as a team to work through the conflict and have the mindset that both parties are equals and coming together to solve a problem.
When trying to resolve conflict in a healthy way, allow yourself to think rationally and be proactive instead of being reactive. Use creative thinking and open-mindedness to come to a fair resolution that will benefit both each person. Work towards being productive, not playing the “blame game.”
Unhealthy conflict is the exact opposite of healthy conflict. A person may take things personally, attack the other person and show no signs of respect. They aren’t moving forward to finding a fair resolution for both parties or making an effort to work together. They argue aggressively with the other person, which is counterproductive because then they’re just spinning in circles as they go back and forth and no one gets anywhere. It doesn’t move the two people towards to a compromising solution.
People in unhealthy conflicts usually avoid problems and refuse to work through them. They don’t want to be bothered with the drama and do not care to participate in finding or creating a solution. These people may also like to manipulate others, place blame on others, or easily get upset and walk away. Their avoidance or disregard for the problem at hand can damage the relationship.
Benefits of Conflict
While it may not be something that anyone wants to do, facing the drama in life and addressing the conflicts with certain people will have many benefits in the long run. Healthy conflict can actually help people grow, create deeper bonds and improve relationships.
When people take the first step to deal with these negative emotions brought on by someone else and work through them, they will:
- Grow closer together because they’re working through their differences with each other, understanding the other person and clarifying each of their needs and values.
- Value the other’s perspective better. They don’t have to always agree with the other person, but they should try to understand where the person is coming from and see their viewpoint on the situation. They’ll begin to notice the differences each person has and recognize how differently their minds work.
- Learn how to fight fair and respect the other person. Keep respect in mind while working through a problem so no one will be tempted to start name-calling, cursing, throwing insults at each other or bring up every problem that’s ever occurred. Approach the conflict with a curious mindset and stay on topic and not get distracted from past conflicts. Instead of becoming defensive with their own viewpoint, they’ll be more interested in what the other person has to say.
- Own their part in the conflict. When they argue with someone, it’s a two-way street. Both people are part of the problem. When they realize that they play a part in the conflict as much as the other person, they’ll start to think of ways to contribute to the resolution. They’ll take ownership of their role in the problem and help to improve the situation.
- Improve their listening skills. When they give their undivided attention and take the time to really listen to the other person, they’re giving the other person the space to open up to you and trust them. They should try to refrain from making any interruptions, remarks, or judgements while the other person is speaking. They just want to be fully present for the other person and allow them to express their thoughts and feelings.
How to Deal with Conflict
Here are five healthy ways to deal with conflict:
- Make time to talk. Ask the other person when a good time would be to talk about the conflict. If they are busy, ask to make an appointment with them and get on their calendar. It will only hurt the relationship to keep feelings and emotions bottled up. People need to release that anxiety, tension or fear and talk through things with the other person. It’s also best to deal with the conflict as soon as it arises and not push it aside to a later date. The sooner the problem is dealt with, the better off both parties will be.
- Express our thoughts and feelings. Each person should use “I” statements when talking with the other, like “I feel,” “I want,” “I need,” or “I wish.” Try to refrain from using accusatory statements, like “you did this,” or “this is your fault,” or “you were wrong.” When we speak from our hearts, the other person will begin to see our perspective and understand us better.
- Putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes. If we act as if we are the other person and describe how we’re feeling, then the other person can agree, disagree or clarify things for us. We’ll gain a better understanding of their viewpoint and be able to work together easily.
- Be clear and specific with our wants and needs. We can’t expect the other person to read our mind, so we must express to them what we want or need from them to work through this conflict. When we’re direct and explicit, we’re giving the person a chance to meet our requests.
- Talk with a therapist. Sometimes it’s nice to have an objective third party enter the picture, such as Healing Happens Therapy in Oakland. They have the professional background and expertise to help us resolve our conflicts. Even if we go to therapy for years on end that doesn’t mean we’ll never argue again or come across any kind of conflict. The point of going to therapy and learning how to effectively communicate is to figure out how to weather the storms quicker, more efficiently, and move on.
Dealing with conflict will be tailored to our personalities. We don’t have to become someone else. If we feel like we’re an introvert, we can figure out how to make it possible to resolve things the way that works best for us.
Conflict isn’t a bad thing; it’s a reality. And knowing how to navigate that part of life is a true gem.