Managing Conflict

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Conflict is never a desirable thing, but it is something that we all encounter frequently, in all walks of life. Whether it is at home, school, work, or with friends, conflict can arise at any time for almost any reason. How you deal with it can have a huge impact on your career path, your personal relationships, and your overall happiness in life. Below we have listed a number of tips to help you learn how to manage conflict, and resolve rather than escalate the situation.

Don’t blame the conflict - Often when people come to us because they are upset or annoyed, we can get defensive, and become upset or annoyed with the fact that they brought up their issue. The first step in resolving conflict is not allowing it to devolve into a blame game. Do that, and it will become a vicious cycle.


Use Active Listening - If you truly want to resolve the conflict, it is essential to ensure that the other person knows they are being heard. You may be tempted to jump in and defend yourself or reframe something they have said from your perspective. Avoid doing this until they have finished, so that they can express themselves completely. As they talk, repeat what they say with phrases like “So you feel like I…”, so they know you understand them.


Explain Your Side - When they have said their part, explain the situation as you see it using neutral, unemotive language. Don’t attempt to prove them wrong, but simply explain why things have happened they way they have.


Analyze the Issue - In order to resolve a conflict, you need to understand exactly why the other person has an issue. For example, a common problem people have when moving in together is how clean the home should be. This is a good example because nobody is “correct”, they have just been raised in different ways. In a situation like this, one person may be annoyed because they think the house is messy, while the other is annoyed because they think a big deal is being made over something small.


Work Together - The only way to properly resolve a conflict is to work together, and there needs to be some sort of compromise in the end. Using the above example, you could agree that if the messy person stops leaving things lying around, the clean person will do the heavy cleaning, like hoovering. Alternatively you could agree to clean up before guests arrive, do a weekly clean together, or confine the mess to one room.


Agree to Disagree - No matter how big or small the conflict, there will always be those points upon which you just can’t agree. In situations like this, it is sometimes best to just accept that and move on. While one person may define a room as messy if it has a few plates out, the other might define it as clean as long as they can still see the floor. This will never change, and you need to sort out a compromise.


Make new rules clear, and accept them - Clearly defining the solution is crucial if it is to be upheld. Promising to keep the house clean, for example, is a vague statement that could be interpreted in two very different ways. Promising to do the hoovering once a week, or the dishes every night, can not. But remember that you are not simply creating the new rules you want. It is reasonable to expect another person to keep a house clean, but not reasonable to expect them to do it to your standard without getting anything in return. This usually means both parties doing things they don’t want to. So if your roommate agrees to do the dishes or wash the clothes, you need to recognise that they are doing something they don’t want to do, and see as pointless, simply to make you happy. In return, you may need to split the cleaning duties 25/75 rather than 50/50, as you will then both be doing 25% more cleaning than you want.


Conflict is an inevitable reality of life, so learning how to deal with it effectively is an extremely useful skill that will help you in all walks of life. The results won’t always be exactly what you want, but usually they will be better than the alternative situation. It won’t always be possible to resolve all conflicts, but trying to do so will make your life a whole lot easier in a lot of different ways.

Emily Sullivan