How to respond to conflict responsibly
Do you fear conflict or avoid it at all costs? If your perception of conflict comes from painful memories from early childhood or previous unhealthy relationships, you may expect all disagreements to end badly. You may view conflict as demoralising, humiliating, or something to fear. If your early life experiences left you feeling powerless or out of control, conflict may even be traumatising for you.
When you enter a conflict situation already feeling threatened, it’s tough to deal with the problem at hand in a healthy way. Instead, you’re more likely to either shut down or blow up in anger.
On the other hand, if we can learn to manage conflict in a way that benefits all involved, we will be more positive and receptive to viewing conflict as a catalyst for growth and opportunity.
|Healthy and unhealthy ways of managing and resolving conflict
|Unhealthy responses to conflict:
|Healthy responses to conflict:
|An inability to recognize and respond to the things that matter to the other person
|The capacity to empathize with the other person’s viewpoint
|Explosive, angry, hurtful, and resentful reactions
|Calm, non-defensive, and respectful reactions
|The withdrawal of love, resulting in rejection, isolation, shaming, and fear of abandonment
|A readiness to forgive and forget, and to move past the conflict without holding resentments or anger
|An inability to compromise or see the other person’s side
|The ability to seek compromise and avoid punishing
|Feeling fearful or avoiding conflict; expecting a bad outcome
|A belief that facing conflict head on is the best thing for both sides
Conflict triggers strong emotions and can lead to hurt feelings, disappointment, and discomfort. When handled in an unhealthy manner, it can cause irreparable rifts, resentments, and break-ups. But when conflict is resolved in a healthy way, it increases your understanding of the other person, builds trust, and strengthens your relationships.
The ability to successfully resolve conflict depends on your ability to:
- Manage stress quickly while remaining alert and calm. By staying calm, you can accurately read and interpret verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Control your emotions and behaviour. When you’re in control of your emotions, you can communicate your needs without threatening, intimidating, or punishing others.
- Pay attention to the feelings being expressed as well as the spoken words of others.
- Be aware of and respect differences. By avoiding disrespectful words and actions, you can almost always resolve a problem faster.