I mentioned before that conflict arises when a person’s needs or expectations are not met. However, conflict does not just rest on a difference in needs but also on the negative meaning that people give an action or behaviour. Thus our perception and interpretation of a situation plays a large part in conflict.
Your partner comes home later than expected without calling you. You feel disappointed and hurt and are getting angry because you consider his actions disrespectful; he obviously doesn’t care about you; he can’t be bothered. You make a scene and accused him of all the things you just thought.
Does that sound like a familiar scenario? It is a demonstration of how not to go about conflict resolution when you want to be successful. The pathway to successful conflict resolution is self-awareness and mindfulness.
1. Explore your reaction to conflict in general. What is your usual coping style in conflict situations? What are your feelings, thoughts, and physical reactions? How and where did you learn to respond the way you do? You can use my conflict-resolutions-style-inventory as a guide for your exploration.
2. Be proactive to make sure that you are generally in the best space possible. For that you need to take care of yourself. Make sure you have a balanced life style taking into account healthy nutrition, exercise, rest, time for relaxation and friends.
3. Assuming your partner is expressing a difficulty or a difference of opinion. Rather than reacting immediately or even being defensive, listen to your partner. You can apply the active listening skill of paraphrasing and clarifying whether you have understand exactly what your partner’s concern is.
4. Voice your view of the situation but make sure that you stay strictly with describing the conflict situation objectively. Avoid ANY judgements – both in words and in your tone of voice. Certainly avoid starting sentences with ‘You’ – they almost always lead to a judgement or a blaming statement.
5. Take responsibility for your views and feelings by making ‘I’-statements.
6. When you have described the situation non-judgementally, express how you feel. Make sure to use a feeling word and not a thinking word.
7. Identity your need and express it. Make sure you state what you need and not what you don’t need. Example: Don’t say ‘I don’t need you to shout at me’, express what it is that you want.
8. An important issue is to approach a disagreement or conflict situation with flexibility. How can you and your partner find a way to negotiate a solution to your problem that works and both of you can live with?
If you can remember these principle steps and follow them, you will notice very soon how your conflict resolution skills improve. One last thing to be mindful of: Remain respectful of each other!