When we have a difference of opinion with somebody, we often try to correct them, to convince them that our point of view is ‘correct’ and theirs is ‘not.’ After all, we would never hold a point of view we thought is wrong.
Yet, we all know from experience how difficult it is to get others to admit to being wrong. It is usually not only futile; it often leads to real conflict. Thankfully, there are a number of effective conflict resolution strategies — so consider giving them a try!
Number 1 — Don’t Get Defensive
In any conflict — whether it’s professional or personal — we all feel the urge to rush to our defense. You may find yourself constantly trying to correct the other’s position with “but”, “nevertheless”, “however” in defense of your own position before they are even finished explaining their opinion. Try turning the situation around.
How do you feel when another person is constantly contradicting you and seems unwilling to consider your opinion?
Take a moment and really try to see things their way. They have reasons for their point of view, just as you do for yours. This doesn’t mean that you have to accept their position, but if you let them know you are taking them seriously, you can avoid things getting personal.
Try using phrases such as, “I understand what you mean” and “That’s a valid point.” Signal that you respect their opinion, even if you don’t agree.
Number 2 — Avoid The Blame Game
When you feel under attack and go on the offensive, even calling the other person’s character or intelligence into question, you cannot really win. All you’ve done is made an enemy. Avoid blaming others. Instead, establish an atmosphere of respect.
One in which everyone can safely express themselves. Let others state and explain their points of view without launching an attack.
Number 3 — Listen Actively
Perhaps the greatest way to resolve a conflict is by really listening. You want to express yourself, so let others express themselves. Instead of listening just to discover flaws and formulating counterarguments while they are speaking, listen to what they have to say.
You may discover that you didn’t really understand the point the other person was actually making. You may discover common ground. In any case, they will respect you for listening.
Number 4 — Begin Statements With “I”
When you begin statements with “you” it sounds like you are pointing a finger at the other person. This actually betrays a weakness on your part. Your opinion should stand on its own merits, not rely on another person’s flaws.
If you think that the other person is not allowing you to express yourself, just let them know how that affects YOU. “I feel like I’m not being understood” is far less confrontational than “You aren’t listening”.
The first statement relates to yourself; the second one is directed at the other person and destined to put them on the defensive.
This can make a big difference in a conversation. These kinds of “I” statements give the other person a chance to pause and rethink their own behavior. It can lead to an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Number 5 — Tame Your Emotions
Speaking in anger or frustration is a bad strategy for resolving conflicts! When you’re emotional, your rational thinking shuts down and you can’t formulate an acceptable outcome.
Don’t unload your emotions on others, wait until you calm down, so that you can discuss things in a reasonable manner. Throw a tantrum, if you want, but do it before you speak with them.
When you are calm and rational, you can make your own points better and you are open to different perspectives.
Number 6 — Show That You Can Compromise
Depending on the situation, some approaches to conflict management may be more effective than others. Sometimes, simply being accommodating and avoiding conflict is the best move — especially if you don’t care much — one way or the other.
A competitive strategy might be much more useful when you have to come to some sort of decision and need to assert yourself.
In most conflicts, however, the only way to come to some sort of resolution is through compromise. You have to come to some acceptable agreement — in order to move forward.
Show others that you don’t always have to insist on your own way — even if you still think you are right. Others will appreciate you for putting a solution before your own pride.
Number 7 — Don’t Badmouth Someone To Others
Unless you really need to, you should not spread around details of a conflict you are having with someone — you will only make them feel betrayed. And the only way they can then defend themselves is by badmouthing you. This does not make you look good!
There are other ways to vent anger or frustration than talking someone down. If you just have to do that, do it in front of a mirror, write it down or talk to someone who doesn’t know who you are talking about. Trust and respect are essential for resolving conflicts.
Number 8 — Don’t Take It Personally
We tend to regard our opinions or actions as a direct reflection of who we are, so we get defensive. However, when someone disagrees with your opinion or criticizes your performance, don’t take it as an attack on you personally.
Someone might think your opinion is flawed or your performance can stand improvement, but that does not mean they think you are a terrible person. They may even have a point!
Realize that, if you can distinguish between what they are criticizing and yourself as a person, it will become much easier to avoid personal conflict or resolve differences in a way that is acceptable to everyone concerned.
Number 9 — Pay Close Attention To Nonverbal Communication
Dealing with conflicts directly is not everyone’s forte. Some people prefer to be accommodating or even avoid conflict whenever possible. They are uneasy with conflict and would rather say or do almost anything just to spare themselves an unpleasant situation.
This can lead to building emotional pressure. Since they are not being honest with you, you may not be aware of this until it comes to a head. So, don’t just take people at their word.
Be aware of non-verbal communication that betrays emotions — such as body language, facial expressions, eye contact, and voice tonality. “I’m OK” should not be very convincing if they are sighing, averting their eyes, or fidgeting.
If you learn to pay attention to these cues, you will sense when their words do not match their feelings. Then you can take steps to encourage them to be more honest with you.
Number 10 — Prioritize Resolving The Conflict Over Being Right
You might think that someone is being unfair to you or that something just isn’t right. Maybe you regard yourself as the “victim” of a compromise or perhaps of some change of policy at work.
You can easily get frustrated and emotional about it. Usually, the situation is not just about you. Calm down and reassess things. The compromise or decision might have been made for the sake of the common good.
Yes, you may indeed be right, but you should consider whether you really want to insist on your point of view at the cost of the conflict and resentment it may cause. Not every battle is worth fighting.
Number 11 — Know When To Apologize And Forgive
Telling someone “I’m sorry” can be very difficult. This is especially true when you feel like you have nothing to apologize for! And if someone has hurt you in some way but won’t admit to the wrong, you may get so upset that you won’t ever want to forgive them.
Yet, you should consider that resolving a conflict is often preferable to maintain your pride. People make mistakes and — just like you — might have a problem admitting to them.
If you can put aside your resentment and forgive them, you could make way for an even better relationship with them. Resentment is a bad investment of time and energy.
Number 12 — Focus On The Present, Not The Past
When you are in a conflict with someone, it can begin to get personal. You may start to remember other conflicts you had with them in the past and get resentful. You might even bring them up in order to attack them — even though it may have nothing to do with the issue at hand.
One way to avoid this is to use a 48-hour rule. If someone says or does something that bothers you, bring it up with them within 48 hours. If you don’t, just let it go.
Don’t use past conflicts as a weapon when you are engaged in a new conflict. The other person will resent you for doing so, and it will just make it harder to come to a resolution.
Number 13 — Use Humor When Appropriate
Humor is a great technique for dissolving tension. It’s hard to be upset when you’re laughing, right? But you must be careful.
You should avoid humor that could offend your counterpart or makes fun of his or her position — or anything else that might be sensitive to them. Be aware of the other person’s sense of humor.
Some people can take a joke, others cannot. Use humor only as a way to break the tension — and focus at least temporarily — on something other than the subject of conflict.
Self-deprecating humor (poking fun at yourself) is one method for achieving this. A well-timed humorous remark might be all that is needed to calm emotions and make all involved parties more receptive to a practical resolution.
Number 14 — Remember The Importance Of The Relationship
At a given moment, the topic of contention might seem to be extremely important. Conflicts, however, arise constantly and are almost always temporary in nature. Solutions are almost always discovered.
Remember, relationships usually last — for good or ill. Insisting on your point of view is rarely worth the cost of losing a friend or worsening any relationship. After all, conflicts tend to fade, but people usually stick around.
How will they regard you?
Think about how important the subject of discussion is to you, compared to the relationship you have with your contender. Make sure you weigh the gains of ‘winning’ against what they can ‘cost.’ Maintaining good relationships will better enable you to resolve future conflicts!
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