Conflict may not be able to be avoided but harm-minimisation is possible. Image courtesy of artur 84 at freedigitalphotos.net
I don’t know anybody who likes conflict. However, like it or not, conflict is an inevitable part of being in any kind of relationship. Whether an individual’s conflict style is yelling, or giving the silent treatment, another common denominator surrounding conflict, is that both parties (or how many are involved) will get hurt. Even if we tell ourselves that it doesn’t matter or that it didn’t bother us, deep down, conflict is unpleasant, upsetting and unsettling.
I have had my fair share of conflicts over the years. I’d rather they never occurred, and I’d rather they would never be part of my life again in the future. However, I know they will be, so I have recently told myself some ways I could change to handle conflict better. This also is more likely to result in less damage and preservation of the relationship.
1.Don't say things in anger you don't mean. It’s trite, and we’ve all been told this before and we all probably tell it to ourselves, but to me, this is the most important action to remember during any conflict situation. People, even if they deny it, do remember what we say, and sadly, years after we have said it. They may know that you don’t mean it, and you definitely know you don’t mean it, but once it’s said, it can’t be unsaid. If you feel your anger and your emotions are going to get the better of you, the old advice of walking away or counting to ten really is the way to go. Even if the other party is firing emotional bullets left, right and centre. This way, reparation of the friendship (or other kind of relationship) is much easier.
2.Listen. Try to remain calm and hear the other person’s point of view. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with it, or that you don’t have your own perspective. However, you need to ask yourself, what is more important – being right or preserving the relationship? In my experience, the relationship has always been more important. Though I don’t always see it that way at the time.
3. Relay to the other person what they said to demonstrate you have heard their point of view. They are then much more likely to hear what you have to say.
4 Avoid getting personal, and saying “always and never” In my experience, comments that can result from this are never accurate, or helpful.
5.Give each other some space and time. If you want to apologise, the soil might not be quite fertile immediately after the argument. Give yourself and the other person time to calm down.
6.Think about the positives and negatives about the relationship If you have had 2 fights, but 100 positive interactions, do you really want to end something that is worthwhile to you?
7It’s okay to be the first one to say sorry. Again, this doesn’t mean you’re right or the other person’s right. It could just be about saying “Hey, our relationship means a lot to me, and I would miss you if it ended.” However, depending on the severity of the fight, you may want to wait a few days, or a week, or even a month before trying to mend fences…
On the positive side, often once conflicts have healed, the relationship is stronger than ever. They are never happy events, but I’ve found the above ways I would change if I entered a similar situation again that would probably result in a much better outcome.