‘The greatest conflicts are not between two people but between one person and himself.’
Garth Brooks

Overview

It is important to remember that not all conflict is negative. Sometimes a confrontational situation, if it is managed positively, can bring around some very strong results. In fact if you never have any confrontation then progress may never be made!
Conflict is essentially when two or more values, perspectives or opinions are contradictory in nature and haven’t been aligned or agreed upon. This could be conflict within yourself when you are not living according to your own values or when your values and perspectives are challenged or threatened by someone else.

It is important to realise, regardless of your initial reaction, that you must be aware of your natural instincts. Whether you feel like you want to fight or flee when a conflict arises, you can deliberately choose a conflict mode. By consciously choosing conflict you are more likely to productively contribute to solving the problem you are faced with.

Personality clashes are inevitable, because we are all different and it can be frustrating when someone doesn’t get our point of view. We can also rub each other up the wrong way and often what we don’t like in others is what we actually don’t like in ourselves.

A big factor in persuading someone of the need to commit to change and manage their anger is to look, with the other person, objectively and sensitively at the consequences of their anger. Often angry people are in denial and put it down to acceptable mood swings and the frustration at the situation as opposed to the way that they are choosing to handle the situation.

Helping angry people to understand that their behaviour is destructive and negative is an important first step. Most importantly, recognising how you handle your own emotions is key. If you know that you can be hypersensitive in certain situations and take things personally, you need to remind yourself of this in moments of high emotion. It may be that you are so involved with the turmoil that is going on within yourself that you can become defensive and take it out on other people.

Being as objective as possible and focusing on the benefits of resolving conflict is far more positive and conducive to happy living. It is important on occasions to concede that you may not always be right. After all, life is rather too short for unnecessary negative confrontation and is so much better when you resolve your differences and move on from them in a positive and constructive way.

‘Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.’ Max Lucade

Conflict Resolution – Steps to Success

  • Understand the benefits of conflict
  • Use the cool down model to defuse tension
  • Consider the other person’s point of view
  • Manage your emotional reaction
  • Seek mutually beneficial outcomes
  • Once the situation is resolved – move on!

Benefits of conflict

Conflict can be very positive because it helps to raise and address problems. It can also energise your focus towards the most appropriate issues with a view to resolution and results. Remember, conflict is not the problem; it is when you poorly manage conflict that it becomes a problem. Out of control conflict can hamper productivity, demotivate and cause continued conflicts that lead to negative, disruptive and inappropriate behaviour. Conflict can be a hard thing to face; however, there is value in addressing it. A lot of positive things can come from conflict!

Coping with conflict

Some people are better at dealing with conflict than others. How do you react to conflict? Do you fear it and avoid it at all costs? If your perception of conflict comes from frightening or painful memories from previous unhealthy relationships or your early childhood, you may expect all present-day disagreements to end badly.

On that basis it is really important that you challenge your fears. If your early life experiences have left you feeling out of control and powerless, conflict may even be traumatising for you.

If you view conflict as dangerous, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you go into a conflict situation already feeling extremely threatened, it is very difficult to deal with the problem at hand in a healthy way. Instead, you are more likely to shut down or blow up in anger. If this is the case for you then I would suggest that you seek out support because to deal with any conflict situation successfully you will need to feel confident.

The Cool Down Model

In conflict you need to control your emotions and try to not get angry, aggressive or oversensitive. Anger is often stress in denial and some angry people take pride in their anger and don’t want to change; others fail to recognise the effect it has on both themselves and on others. Without a commitment to change, there’s not a lot that can be done; anger management is only possible when an angry person accepts and commits to change.

In any conflict situation it is better to deal with things calmly and not to become over-agitated. If ever you find yourself in a conflict situation with someone and you are looking to defuse the potential volcano that can erupt, the following five-step process is a great way to cool down the situation.

The Cool Down Model:

The cool down model is a good way to defuse a conflict situation. Being aware of what can cause conflict is also important. It could well be poor communication, not being informed about changes or simply not understanding another person’s motivation. It is important to understand the reasons for decisions too. Disagreement about ‘who does what’ and stress from trying to deal with inadequate information or resources can be a real irritation.

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