Conflict Resolution Strategies – Relationship Disputes

February 14th, 2011 - Erin Johnston

Conflict ResolutionRelationships are a significant focus in our lives: Not just personally, but also professionally. When these relationships are going well and conflict-free a relationship can be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. However, many struggle once conflict is inserted into the relationship.

Regardless of the nature and significance of the relationship, the hurt experienced as a result of a dispute can trigger ineffective communication patterns and negative behaviors. Conflict resolution strategies can make a profound impact in resolving relationship disputes.

Conflict Resolution Strategies – Issues to Remember:

  • Do Not Bring Others Into the Dispute
    Often those that are hurt look for validation from others to support personal perspectives. This typically results in an increase of the conflict – spreading the focus from those primarily involved to ancillary players as well. Even in the best-case scenario, this does little to resolve the original issue. In truth, feelings are feelings and it does not matter if others agree with them.
  • Even Those Not Directly Involved In the Conflict Are Biased
    In any relationship, everyone has his or her own agenda and perspective. Except for designated neutrals like judges or mediators, people indirectly connected to the conflict are not neutral. As a result their reactions to the relationship issues are based on their roles, perspectives, and needs. In the workplace, a manager’s focus may be on facilitating team project success, regardless of an individual’s skill development. Family members may have a primary investment in the family “getting along”, regardless of the cause of personal clashes between siblings.
  • Watch Passive-Aggressive Reactions
    Sometimes in an effort not to be hurt further, a person may express their feelings in subtle attack. Anger and hurt comes out passive aggressively – effectively putting the other person on edge and into a defensive role. Using Feeling or I-Statements versus lashing out in a cloaked verbal attack is going to have a greater impact on the underlying conflict and will more likely facilitate positive communication.
  • Accept Other Person’s Autonomy
    Some conflicts cannot be resolved and relationships not saved. Effective resolution requires that all parties to the conflict willingly and purposefully participate in the resolution of the issue. Each party to the dispute has to accept that evolution of a relationship not one person’s sole responsibility and that an individual is only able to control his or her participation and expectations: i.e.: Mabel cannot make Madge relate to her differently or even want to improve the relationship between them.

Conflict Resolution Strategies: Making a personal decision to address relationship conflict is the first step to real change.

Perhaps the problematic relationship is with a spouse, your child’s other parent, business partner, neighbor, or work colleague. Conflictual relationships are unpleasant, and typically they occupy our thoughts even when we are not interacting with the person.

It is important to remember that the renewed focus on resolving the conflictual relationship alone does not alter the existing problems of communication and cooperation that are preventing the resolution in the first place.

Choosing to address the conflict differently can.

Focusing On Own Perspective
Too often when embroiled in a conflictual relationship we get caught up in being “right” and focus on having the other side agree, at the very least, that we are not wrong. However, conflict means there is a fight going on: One side is asking the other to admit they are wrong. In any situation where a person is “fighting” they are asking for confirmation that they are, at the least, not wrong. However, most often this means asking the other person to admit they are wrong. “I make so much sense, why can’t he/she/they see it?”

The fact of the matter is that if we continue to focus on being right – or not wrong, versus trying to understand how the other side is not wrong, or right – the conflict will continue and any resolution to change the ongoing relationship will fail.

Focus the Other Person’s Perspective: How Are They Not Wrong?
My favorite person in the world can make me more angry than anyone or anything else. If, despite my anger, I am able to look for how this person is “right” or “not wrong” I am well on my way to reducing the conflict. Furthermore, applying this process to any interaction or person also has a profound affect on my experience with others.

Resolving conflicts in relationships means coupling a focus on how the other person is not wrong with changing communication patterns.

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