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How To Handle Conflict: Our Clinical Psychologist's Top Tips!

How To Handle Conflict: Our Clinical Psychologist's Top Tips!

Understanding Conflict

As much as we may try to avoid conflict in our family life, relationships with loved ones, friends or at work, it is often impossible. Conflict usually arises when there is a misunderstanding or disagreement over a difference in ideas, opinions, perceptions, values or desires.   When we respond to conflict negatively, strong emotions are triggered and this can bring about  resentment, blame, anger, disappointment and hurt feelings. Poor communication skills, different personalities or difficult behaviours are also a catalyst for most conflicts, and when not managed, can lead to distrust, distance, irreparable rifts or bitter disputes.

Learning how to handle conflict is very important in order to maintain healthy, positive and respectful relationships in your personal and professional life. If conflict is managed well, it can even be a positive thing - creating the opportunity to learn how to improve communication channels, resolve issues and strengthen relationships.

Here are our Clinical Psychologist’s Top 10 Tips on how to handle conflict:

Tip #1: Listen to other people carefully

Listening is a very important part of resolving conflict. Do not interrupt the other person while he or she is speaking...simply listen and don’t talk! Of course, this may be hard at first because you are probably not going to agree or like what is being said. By giving the other person an opportunity to express his or her opinion or view point, you will be able to gain understanding of their position. Try to be as open minded as possible and don’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions before you’ve heard their side. 

Tip #2: Learn what pushes your buttons

Keeping your cool is essential when faced with conflict. If you are hot tempered by nature, you need to learn to control your emotions when you feel disrespected or your sense of security is threatened. While some people react strongly, others may simply shut down. Be aware of what gets you worked up and how you react to the situation – this will help you to control emotional outbursts and allow you to respond to the situation in a calmer manner.

In situations of conflict, raising your voice or becoming aggressive will only serve to make the situation more volatile and escalate the conflict. This does not mean that you have to take things lying down. Surprisingly, a person who responds calmly and firmly, will command better respect and be more likely to be heard than someone who raises their voice and responds aggressively or defensively to a situation!

Tip #3: Remove yourself from the situation

If you feel upset because of the person’s comments or actions, it’s best not to retaliate in the heat of the moment if you know that you will not be able to control your reaction. In this situation, it is better to walk away, take a deep breath, count to 10 or hundred if you have to but don’t respond. Responding when you are upset will not solve the problem, it only worsens the situation. In most cases, you’ll feel calmer and more approachable after taking a moment to clear your head. You can say ‘Please give me a moment. I don’t want to lose my temper and will respond to you in a few minutes’. This will also give the other person a chance to calm down.

For situations like these,natural remedies like PureCalm can also help. PureCalm is a herbal remedy which keeps you calm and relaxed when you feel overwhelmed, stressed or tense. Just a few drops will have you feeling better in no time!

Tip #4: Avoid hostile behaviours

When there is conflict or disagreement in a situation, people can also become hostile towards each other. Hostility may be expressed in your facial expressions, posture or tone of voice. Abusive language, insults, criticism as well as eye rolling, hand gestures or stonewalling are used when arguments or disagreements get out of control. Be aware of how you communicate and convey your message to the other person – remember, it doesn’t have to be aggressive to get your point across. A calm and steady voice, direct eye contact and carefully chosen words will make a far greater impact that shouting, gesturing aggressively, insulting or swearing at the other person!

Tip #5:  Address the problem as soon as possible by communicating clearly

A huge mistake that people make when there is conflict or disagreement  is not dealing with the issue timeously. An argument or disagreement happens and both parties feel aggrieved and as a result resentment builds and festers. After a while, resentment builds up and becomes unmanageable. What usually happens sooner or later is that the smallest thing will cause an outburst and your reaction will be way out of proportion to the actual incident that caused it.

Don’t allow a problem to go unresolved – address it as soon as you are calm and move on. So if it irritates or upsets you when someone does something, rather ask them calmly not to do it again than say nothing and have a big blow up when it becomes too much to bear!  In this respect, communicating your needs and feelings in a calm yet assertive way is key to avoiding unnecessary conflict!

Tip #6:   Find common ground

When people are in conflict, they have a tendency to focus on differences – and these differences are what keep tensions high. Start by finding common ground and in that way you’ll be able to identify areas that you both agree on and then be more open to discuss your differences and issues. Say ‘I know that we both want to solve this in a way that works for everyone. Let’s try and look for a way to compromise or something we can do to resolve the problem. Do you have any suggestions?’ 

Tip #7:  Be objective when dealing with conflict

It isn’t always easy to be objective when there is conflict. No one likes to be criticised or have their faults or weaknesses pointed out. Be mindful when trying to resolve conflict by addressing the problem – and not the personality.  Make sure that your feedback is positive and not based on gossip, innuendo or personal attacks. Instead of saying ‘You are selfish and stubborn!’ say ‘I feel as if my needs are not important to you’.

Tip #8:  Agree to disagree

Sometimes, you and the other person may not be able to resolve the issue and it’s best to then agree to disagree. Keep in mind that you won’t always agree on everything and that’s okay too! Focus on what is important and let it go. If you can’t resolve the issue and it’s too important to let go, then you need bring a third person – someone who is objective and can act as mediator.

Tip #9: Own up to your bad behaviour

Take responsibility and own up if your actions created the conflict. Showing maturity and integrity will help to resolve conflict quickly and will also earn you more respect. Making a sincere, heartfelt apology is often all that is needed to move forward.

Tip # 10: Show empathy and forgive

Being able to show empathy allows one to have a glimpse at life through another’s perspective in order to move past the conflict. It means that you are showing the other person that you understand their feelings even though you may not necessarily agree with their point of view. Last but not least, forgive and let go. Accept and be grateful for what you’ve learned from the experience, don’t hold grudges, forgive and focus on the future. 

If you have any health-related questions, please contact us or leave a comment below for FREE advice. We always love hearing from you!
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