There is nothing that can be as destructive to a relationship, whether the relationship is a romantic, family, friend or work one, than having conflict.
There is also nothing that can be as healing and helpful to a relationship as resolving conflict and handling it well.
I would like to share with you a seven-step process for resolving conflict. This process is especially helpful when finding a solution and resolving conflict seems to be nowhere on the horizon.
Often, when locked in conflict, people are not able to see and understand any other perspective than their own. Understanding WHY someone feels differently is also hard to do. (Think Democrats and Republicans in highly contested races.)
If you can let your partner know that you have a clear understanding of how he or she really thinks about the situation, why their position is so important, what the problem and the solution means or symbolizes, coupled with the feelings that they have about this idea, then it is easier to come to a compromise and resolve conflict.
Remember, when people believe that they have really been heard and understood (even if not agreed with) then they are more likely to hear another position or idea and entertain other view points as a step toward resolving conflict.
Seven Step Process for Resolving Conflict
1. To resolve conflict, generate a atmosphere of cooperation.
Begin with the idea that there is more than one way to resolve conflict. Think and act in ways that say that the relationship is more important than winning the argument.
Resolving conflict does not mean that one of you is right and the other one is wrong. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt and view him or her as your team mate rather than your opponent.
Setting the stage in this way, you will have a much greater likelihood of resolving conflict. It is easier to work with and compromise with a teammate than with an opponent.
2. Get a clear understanding of your partner’s view of the problem and the affect that it has on him or her. Make sure that your partner understands your view.
Track a little of the historical thinking about the situation, what they view as the causes and how it has affected each of you and your life.
Use active listening skills to summarize back to your partner what your understanding is of his or her position. Keep at it until you clearly understand what your partner is thinking about the situation before you offer your own thoughts and feelings.
Make sure that your partner understands your view of the problem. It is okay if you see the situation differently. Actually, in order to resolve conflict, it is crucial to know that. It is from an understanding of both sides of the disagreement that more acceptance and flexibility will occur.
Remember, you and your partner are not the problem. The problem is the problem. Be sure to separate each person from the problem.
Be sure to recognize feelings about the problem as well as thinking for a healthy resolution to the conflict. When emotions are recognized and acknowledged, people feel validated. People who feel validated and accepted are more open to thinking in broader ways.
3. Brainstorm as many possible solutions as you can. Include your ideas as well as your partners’ ideas.
At this stage of the game, don’t dismiss or be critical about any of the ideas. Creativity is a good thing and it is often at this stage that new solutions are stimulated that might work for all parties.
4. To resolve conflict, notice if anyone becomes heated, flooded or emotional, and, if so, then take a time out.
Sometimes issues are laden with emotion. Some people are able to remain calm easier than others when discussing problems. Whenever anyone is flooded, the fight or flight response kicks in and progress can be diminished, even destroyed.
Acknowledge the flooding and ask to take a break while also making a commitment to come back together to continue to work on resolving the conflict.
5. Each of you talk about what you can give up in the situation.
Are there parts of your solution that are less important and you would be willing to let go?
Giving often begets receiving and as partners let themselves acknowledge that they are willing to forgo some of their own needs, their partner is more likely to do the same as well.
6. Negotiate a solution.
Are there parts of the solutions that are the same? Acknowledge and record any parts that you agree on.
Can you grow a mutual solution from there?
Celebrate and congratulate yourselves and each other on what you have accomplished.
7. Set a date to get back together and see how the plan is going.
Each of you share your reactions to the solution and see if any modifications need to be made.
Final words about resolving conflict:
Some are better at this than others. Notice your own style of remaining calm and friendly when meeting conflict. Your style may require more individual preparation; however, with practice, it gets easier. Skills grow and become more natural with practice.