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How to Resolve Conflicts Effectively and Avoid Long Term Damage to Relationships

It is a fact that humans are social beings. Another fact is that if we have relationships we will have conflict – it is inevitable. Having conflict is a healthy part of relationships and we need not be concerned about the conflict itself but our ability to effectively resolve conflict.

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” – Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins

The ability to put our own thoughts on hold and to listen to the other person’s views is a key step in effectively resolving conflict. After all, their views have merit as well, and it’s important that we acknowledge them, even if we choose to disagree with them. However, when we let our thoughts dominate and express them in a forceful way; we reduce the chances of resolving the conflict. This approach can also harm the relationship and may ruin it permanently.

Here are some statements to help you gauge whether you are handling conflict in a constructive manner. Take a look and see how many are true for you.

Constructive Response Destructive Response
Acknowledging the other person’s thoughts, ideas, feelings and views. Ignoring the other person’s views and focusing on convincing them of your thoughts, ideas etc.
Responding to the other person in a calm, respectful manner, with a measured tone and carefully chosen words. Raising your voice and using expletives directed at the other person, exhibiting clear signs of anger.
Considering the fact that your viewpoint might be wrong. Firmly believing that you are right and they are misinformed and wrong.
Be open to talking the problem through. Refusing to come to a compromise, no matter what the other person wants to do.
Understanding that meeting conflict directly is the only way of resolving it. Believing that avoiding conflict is the best way to make them go away.
Feeling like you are in control of the situation. Feeling threatened and not in control.
Firmly believing that the conflict will end on a positive note. Expecting something bad to happen at the end of the conflict.

If you are more inclined towards the comments on the left hand column, then well done! You have a good chance of effectively resolving conflicts, whether on a personal or professional level, thereby maintaining healthy long term relationships. However, if your responses are more likely to be the ones mentioned in the right hand column (be honest!), then you need to do something to improve the situation.

The mindset you need to resolve conflicts effectively

Resolving conflicts without causing permanent damage to relationships is not too difficult, provided you have the right mindset. Here are some ideas to help you develop your conflict resolution mindset:

  1. Pick your battles carefully: Not everything is worthy of having a conflict over. Sure, you may feel your colleague is wrong when he supports the latest cost-cutting decision taken by the management, but think whether it is worth disagreeing over. Will you getting involved make any difference? Can you change it? If not then don’t get involved.
  2. Listen to what the other person says, and feels: Have the mindset that you want to understand the other person’s view. Get fascinated by the other person’s view rather than critical.
  3. Prioritise conflict resolution, not winning: Think of solving the problem, not winning. Think of influencing not forcing.
  4. Focus on what’s happening now: If you are holding a grudge against the other person due to something that happened in the past, then you will find it difficult accepting anything that they say. Let go of past feelings and focus on the present
  5. Decide when to let go: Remember, you need not agree with what the other person has said. You can agree to disagree.

On a final note – don’t worry if you are not able to achieve harmonious solutions to every conflict. Changing one’s mindset and developing effective conflict resolution skills can take quite a bit of time. If you feel that you need professional advice to speed up the process, call us right away at +61 417 982637 or send us an email at di@lecoaching.com.au. We will be happy to help you find solutions to the conflicts you face.

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