We all have our own opinions, so you will likely find someone with whom you disagree. Usually, disagreements between strangers can be resolved swiftly, and rarely do they escalate. In the case that it does, whether it is with a stranger or someone you know, try to diffuse the situation in the calmest way possible.
Below are ten ways to resolve a conflict.
- Do not get defensive
Regardless of the issue at hand, whether personal or not, do not become defensive. I know it can be difficult, but it usually adds fuel to the fire. When you are being defensive, you rarely are defending your idea or point of view. What you are defending, is your ego. Getting defensive shifts the aim from solving the issue at hand to justifying your point of view. Having your guard up will not solve the problem. Instead, try to see things from the other person’s perspective, and if you do not understand, ask them to explain.
- Be mature
Conflicts usually work both ways. Often, both you and the other person have contributed to this conflict, and part of resolving it demands maturity. Before placing blame, first wonder how you may have contributed. There will be circumstances, rare instances, where you might not have done anything to spur tensions. In that case, choose to be the bigger person. Sometimes, it will be hard. But, choosing to be the bigger person will establish the tone for the rest of the dialogue.
- Avoid ad hominem attacks.
In law school, you are urged not to use ad hominem attacks because they weaken your credibility as a lawyer. In conflicts, they are low blows. Criticizing or calling attention to who a person is rather than arguing against their position or idea is cheap and rude. It usually denotes that you have run out of valid points to make, and in many cases, it escalates the problem. Instead, get to the crux of the issue and focus on the ideas.
- Do not take it personally.
It’s hard not to take a disagreement personally, but doing so can close off communication. Conflicts serve as growth opportunities during a relationship. They open up a dialogue about where and what needs work. For this dialogue to happen, both parties should not take things personally. Instead, accept that you may have been at fault somewhere and listen to what the other person has to say.
- Really listen.
Most of us hear but rarely do we listen. Listening is more than comprehending words that someone says. It is by actively engaging with what is being said and connecting it to context. This skill comes in handy throughout life and will save you conflicts in the future. To let someone know that you are listening, give them your undivided attention and respond appropriately.
- Begin with I statements.
In the middle of an argument, it is easy to throw blame and accuse the other person. This comes off as abrasive, which in turn can make the other person uncommunicative. Accusative sentences also remove accountability on your part and places all the blame on the other party. Instead, try to tell them how you feel. For example:
- I feel X when this happens.
- I think that X is because Y
- I understand that X…
Doing so will address the problem in a way that prevents further escalation and encourages the other person to express how they feel.
- Aim for a compromise.
Conflicts are natural and part of life. Unless the relationship is toxic, there is no reason to break a relationship over a disagreement. If you want to keep the relationship, I suggest that your goal be a compromise. You cannot enter a disagreement to win, prove the other person wrong, or feel better about yourself because you will end up losing the argument. Compromises solve the issue by creating a common ground between the two positions. It is a peaceful concession of both parties that meets the needs of both people. However, to achieve a compromise, you both must listen and uphold your respective ends of the bargain.
- Learn to apologize.
The last way to resolve a conflict is by apologizing. Though it can be difficult, especially when you have done nothing wrong, apologizing is necessary. A sincere apology helps repair a relationship that has undergone tension. If the conflict continues or you feel as though you have been wronged and should not apologize, remember, you are not apologizing for their sake. You are apologizing for yours. When you apologize, you are closing that chapter and moving forward as a way to let go of stress, anxiety, or any emotional distress that argument caused you.
Conflicts happen all the time, but they do not need to be the cause of broken relationships. Conflicts can transform into opportunities for growth and communication.
Berkley. “Resolving Conflict Situations.” Resolving Conflict Situations | People & Culture, 2020, hr.berkeley.edu/hr-network/central-guide-managing-hr/managing-hr/interaction/conflict/resolving.
BrainyDose. “14 Effective Conflict Resolution Techniques.” YouTube, YouTUbe, 30 Oct. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4sby5j4dTY.
Neely, Joe. “10 Most Effective Conflict Resolution Tips for the Workplace.” Toggl Blog, 8 Oct. 2020, toggl.com/blog/conflict-resolution-tips.
Thomas, Julia. “What Is Defensive Behavior and What Does It Look Like?” Betterhelp, BetterHelp, 9 July 2019, www.betterhelp.com/advice/behavior/what-is-defensive-behavior-and-what-does-it-look-like/.