Conflict is an unavoidable aspect of life, and everyone faces conflict throughout their lives. We all have our own opinions and views, and sometimes these opinions and views cause conflict in our personal relationships and with others around us.
Unhealthy Reactions to Conflict
While all people face conflict, it is important to face it in a healthy, solution-focused way and avoid unhealthy reactions. Unhealthy reactions continue to aggravate the situation and include:
- Expecting a win/lose outcome for the conflict. If you seek to win the conflict, you don't have the opportunity to see the other person's perspective and tend to humiliate the person. This often causes the conflict to continue and build.
- Blaming others for the conflict and forming a grudge against the other person never leads to solutions. The person who is blamed may retaliate and blame the "blamer" in return.
- Using verbal and nonverbal behaviors that do not coincide with each other produces dishonesty and misrepresentation.
- Avoiding and ignoring the conflict can lead to a greater build-up of the conflict and aggression.
Many people find themselves in a conflict with a significant other. The important first step in resolving a conflict is to realize that the dynamic of the conflict is complex and that the conflict is often about issues no one is mentioning. People often fight over a minor issue due to fear of facing the real issue. If true resolution is to take place, the real issue must be identified. It is important to use healthy strategies when resolving conflict. Some options include:
- Clearly identify and define the problems and issues.
- Avoid taking a definite stand on what you want as a solution. Doing this simply sets the stage for a struggle of wills.
- Restate what each other has said to clarify meanings and promote the growth of empathy for one another.
- Use "I" messages to relate to the person how you feel. Be sure to let them know how you feel without blaming them for the conflict. Here is an "I" message formula to help guide you in these situations: I feel...(state the feeling) when you...(state the specific behavior) because...(state the effect on your life) and I want...(say what you need or want to make the situation better.)
- The use of proper body language is important in conflict resolution. You can tell how someone feels not just by what they say, but by how they stand or move, and by facial expressions. Remember to keep and open stance and refrain from crossing your arms and closing the person off from you.
- Be a good listener. Yes, we want to let the person know how we feel, but first let them speak and share personal views. Make sure you look at them when they are speaking and don't interrupt them until they're finished.
- Recognize the things you agree on, since this may help you come to a mutual solution.
- Brainstorm as many potential solutions as possible, even absurd ones. The absurd solutions can help you to understand what solutions are not acceptable and often adds a touch of humor to the situation. Look for solutions or compromises which have benefits for each individual. .
Questions to ask yourself before you speak
- Do I want to resolve this conflict or am I really after some other hidden goal that I am afraid to talk about?
- Is what I am going to say true, or is it an exaggeration or only a partial truth that will invite an angry response?
- Is what I am going to say relevant to the issue we are discussing?
- Is what I am going to say constructive and will move us closer to a mutual understanding?
What do I do now?
If you are experiencing conflict and need further assistance, contact the USI Counseling Center at 812/464-1867 for an appointment. We can provide information, short-term counseling, and referrals to a mental health professional in the community for long-term therapy.