Conflict resolution is more important than ever. Think about it: political disagreements, social issues, work team tensions, family feuds, and disputes with friends are merely a few of the conflicts most of us must deal with daily.
But before resolving a conflict, it’s necessary to understand its roots. Most often, we become angry and defensive when we believe we’re not being listened to or have been misunderstood. When that happens, we see the other person as a threat. Then we lash out—and the other person lashes back.
Knowing this, here are powerful strategies to resolve conflicts:
- Never show contempt for the other person by tossing out accusations or belittling them. This will stress both parties out and ensure that no resolution is possible.
- Don’t meet anger with anger. That never leads to conflict resolution. No matter how upset you feel, pause to center yourself. Take deep breathes to calm down. Now, respond rationally, in an even tone of voice and with relaxed, open body language.
- Separate the problem from the person. Perhaps the other person has good reasons to feel as they do. You’ll never know—unless you ask them to explain. By asking them for their insight, you respect their feelings and show that hearing their side matters to you. This remains true, even if you discover you still disagree with them.
- Give the other person your full attention as they respond. When we realize we’re being heard, we cool off and are willing—even happy—to explain our reasoning.
- Have you truly understood? Repeat their words back to them, then ask if you’ve got it right. If the answer is no, request a further explanation. Continue to listen attentively.
- Find something in what they’ve said to agree with. Explain that on this point, you’re in accord. That will go a long way to lessen their anger.
- Focus on the future. The cause of the conflict is in the past. Fault-finding ramps up hurt and anger and does nothing to resolve a conflict. Try to work toward a mutually agreeable outcome.
Remember that resolving conflict improves relationships. You may begin miles apart; but if you successfully resolve the issue, you can move forward and work together in greater harmony.