Image: morguefile.com Sometimes conflict is unavoidable
Here are some tips on what you can do to reach a resolution, or a compromise that suits all parties:
1) Remain calm, and if necessary take some time to compose yourself.
2) Watch what you say. Try starting with 'I' statements like 'I feel' or 'I felt'. Avoid 'you' statements such as 'you always,' and 'you never,' and/or 'you did this' or 'you did that.' This gets the person offside instantly, and just simply blames them before you have even communicated. They are far more likely to listen if you don't make assumptions or accusations towards them. State the facts as to how you felt in regards to the situation.
3) Decide upon the aim of the conflict. Why is there conflict, and what is it really about? Stick to the issue at hand. Don't bring up past conflicts. Bringing those issues up will only further complicate things.
Are you arguing to be proven right? Are you arguing to hurt, embarrass or upset the other person? If so, that is abuse. In most cases on the back of this, you could find yourself in trouble with the law. Do you want to be right, or do you want to make things better for all involved including yourself?
If you're in the conflict to win: think about what that will really achieve? You might feel proud and like a winner for a short period, but what will it mean for your relationships? The other person must still be hurt or angry. If there is one winner, then someone's needs are not being met, and things are no better. In fact they may even be worse. I have a lovely friend who is a relationships counsellor, and she often says to married couples, "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be married?"
Such an insightful and true statement, not to mention a quality question in itself. This statement changed my view of conflict instantly, and especially for when the conflict is with a loved one or a close friend. It's not about who is right or who is wrong, it's about reaching a compromise where each person feels comfortable, happy, heard and important.
4) Calmly check the facts before you react. Sometimes conflict is caused by a lack of communication, or even a simple misunderstanding. The person may not have hurt you consciously at all. They may not have even realised the effects it had on you.
5) Approach the conflict in a mature manner. Silent treatment, eye rolling and pulling faces probably won't work. People aren't mind readers no matter how close to us they are. You need to communicate your feelings in a respectful way. They can't just guess. None of us are mind readers.
6) Make sure that each person has uninterrupted time to talk, and explain their side of things.
7) Call a time out if needed. If it is getting out of control, you might start to say or hear things you will both regret later on. The heat of the moment can make us say things we would never say to that person otherwise. Arrange an appropriate time sooner rather than later. Refresh, take a breather and perhaps go for a walk to clear the air.
8) Be prepared to compromise and reach an agreement that suits all involved. You may not end up with exactly what you want, but it has to be better than carrying around guilt, hurt, anger and/or frustration with you.
9) Practice acceptance. Accept that sometimes we must agree to disagree.
10) Agree to do a follow-up in a weeks time to discuss how each person is feeling now. Have things improved? Do any changes need to be made?
Look out for 'Coping with Conflict Part 2,' where we will look at things that should be avoided in any conflict situation, and what we can do if we cannot reach an agreement, resolution or compromise to settle the issue.