Conflict is common to all of us. The problem is we often struggle to handle it well. To be fair, we all know how to handle it badly, and we do so on a regular basis. We can fall into the trap of getting aggressive or we can just try to avoid it all. At one level conflict is simply the disagreement of ideas; what makes it harder are the meaning and emotions we load it up with. Some people avoid conflict, saying they want to keep the peace, which isn’t actually true, they just want to avoid conflict. You often have to go through to conflict to get to real peace. To resolve conflict well, here are four steps to apply.
- Own your zone.
One thing that all people in conflict have in common is they are very aware of what the other person is doing wrong. As they focus on this, the relationship stalls. Before addressing another person's behaviour first make sure you've tidied up your side of the fence. Own your emotions, your reactions, your interpretation, rather than blaming others for what you're feeling, assuming and the way you are behaving. It is easy to fall into a ‘reactive’ mindset rather than a ‘responsive’ one. People with a ‘reactive’ mindset do three things:  they blame the other person for how they feel;  they then justify any reaction they make; and  they wait for the other person to change, or at least apologise. People with a ‘responsive’ mindset however, do the opposite:  they take responsibility for how they feel;  they then take responsibility for how they react; and  they initiate to address the issue.
- Know your need.
Often conflict is the clash between two people's solutions or preferences that seem mutually exclusive. However, if you peel back their preferences you discover what is actually important to a person; what they are valuing or needing. Usually what each person is valuing or needing is equally fine. It is here that you can brainstorm together how both can be upheld – you become a team rather than competitors. Or you can negotiate as to what you require to be ok with accepting the other person’s preferences, or equally what would they require to be ok with accepting yours.
- Address the person.
As obvious as that sounds, we will often talk to everyone else except the person we have the problem with; or we clam up and say nothing at all. Often people play the conversation through in their minds and conclude that saying something won't work. They never let the other person into the conversation. When we do this we stall ourselves. We need to play our part, which is to address the person, say what we need to say, and let their response be their responsibility.
- And finally, communicate constructively.
Learn how to speak the truth in a respectful way. Some people are all ‘truth’ but there is no respect in the way they are speaking; they just let the person have it. Others are so focused on being loving and respectful that they never say what they really mean. When you speak, do so from a soft heart, speaking calmly, clearly, using “I” and focus on the behaviour rather than attacking the person. One helpful pattern to use is:
I don't appreciate…
I would appreciate...
For example: “I appreciate that you have been working hard. What I am struggling with is the way you arrive late each night and I really need your support. What I would appreciate is if you could do whatever it takes to be here on time. That would mean a lot to me.”
Resolving conflict well empowers your life and deepens your relationships. Why settle for anything less?
Strength to Strength