Conflict is an unavoidable aspect of life among all living creatures, not just us Homo sapiens!
As we discovered in my newsletter this week, we all have our own “style” of managing conflicts when they occur. In my newsletter I offered a quiz to find out which “animal” you most resemble when things get heated (if for some reason you’re not signed up for my newsletter you can still quiz yourself here).
Are you a “shark”, or “turtle”? Maybe you discovered you´re a “teddy bear” or possibly a wise old “owl”.
Quiz or no quiz, today’s post will offer you some key strategies to help you from ruffling up those feathers!!
What kind of things cause conflict?
Looking at conflict through the lens of Choice Theory, meeting our 5 basic human needs requires constant work and is difficult to balance and maintain.
Factor this in with the tough reality that we are attempting to meet these needs within the larger social context of society.
When our own personal lives come into contact with countless others (who are also doing the best they can to meet their basic needs) there is ample space for conflict. When:
- Our wants and needs don’t match up with others wants and needs it
- We perceive a threat to our picture(s) of how we want life to be (Quality World)
- We learn to solve problems or get what we want by force or a show of strength
In Choice Theory terms, conflict is both an internal issue when we have conflicting needs AND a reality of what happens when two or more people have different views of how things should work. In all relationships there will be times when disagreement exists and it is up to the people within the relationship to determine how they will handle such conflict.
What makes a conflict worse?
Before we dive into the strategies that help resolve conflicts it is often helpful to look at the far other side of the issue, what makes it worse!! In the case of conflict it is clear that people can often do things that do little to help matters get better but instead throw gasoline on the fire!
Here are a few examples of things you can do if making matters worse is your intention:
- Bringing up the past: “You always…”
- Bringing in allies: “Everybody thinks you…”
- Trying to WIN rather than trying to solve the problem
- Blaming: “It’s all your fault because…”
- Name-calling and other put-downs: “You’re so dumb,” “That’s a stupid idea.”
- Threatening: “If you don’t shut up, I’m going to punch you.”
Do you recognize that these are variations of the disconnecting habits of external control ?!?
What makes a conflict better?
When we find ourselves in a conflict situation there are typically 4 different responses. These responses are partly physiological and connected to the “fight or flight” response in our brain.
The strategies we will share in this blog post are all focused on helping you train yourself to “face” conflict.
These strategies require effort and a lot of practice to begin using them naturally. Even when we become fairly experienced using them, our “natural” inclination towards conflict will always remain the 4 below responses.
Here is a diagram to help illustrate these responses
#1 Awareness of your anger
Notice when you start to become angry and rate your anger quickly on a 1 – 10 scale, where 10 is “volcano” and 1 is relaxed and peaceful.
If you are a 9 or 10, cool off to at least a 7 or 8 before you try to handle the problem with the person with whom you are in conflict with.
Managing strong emotions such as anger is challenging. If this is a significant problem for you than you might want to consider reading some further material on the specific skills regarding managing anger.
Tell the person with whom you are in conflict with specifically what he or she is doing that is causing you a problem.
Name the action that bothers you, and the way it affects you:
“When you __________,
then I _______________.”
Keep it very short and to the point!
#3 Listen and learn
Expect the other person to defend himself/herself and to want to tell his/her side of the story.
Listen respectfully and reflect the other person’s point of view – even if you totally disagree with it.
You are trying to let them know you heard what they have to say, because you want them to hear what you have to say.
The best reflective responses include a paraphrase of what the person said and your best guess as to how he/she is feeling.
#4 Brainstorm possible solutions
Now that the other person knows what your position is and you know what his or her position is, the next step is to see if you can find a solution that will satisfy both.
It may not be the perfect solution.
You are looking for the best available alternative. “Best available” means both people can live with it. “OK so you want this and I want that – how can we work this out so we both get what we need?”
#5 Weigh out the Pros and Cons
Weigh the pros and cons of each alternative. You are looking for the alternative with the most pros and fewest cons.
#6 Make a Plan
Decide on the best alternative and commit to putting it to work. Set a time to check with each other to see how the new plan is working.
You may need to alter the new plan when you actually put it into action.
Be careful not to throw it out too soon just because it is not perfect. Most new plans take some fine-tuning.
If the plan isn’t working you can always return to the drawing board and develop a new one.