How Well Do You Handle Conflict?

“We don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is true with people.”
― Steve Goodier

Conflict is a natural part of being human, on a physical, mental and emotional basis.


Physical: We are out for a walk in nature, and it begins to rain–hard. Our physical comfort is now in conflict with the forces of nature.
Mental: We are asked to do something that is necessary for our job that goes against our ethical principles
Emotional: Our ego and positive self-regard feels threatened by someone’s actions or words as in bullying, criticism, or judgments

What skills do you think are helpful or necessary to be successful at handling conflict? Make a list of them before reading further.

What does success look like to you in conflict situations? (Rate in order of how often you use each one)
___The other person concedes to my position
___I see the other person’s point of view and change my own to theirs
___We both compromise—each of us gives in to at least something
___We collaborate, incorporating each other’s views and are satisfied with the result

How would you describe your style or usual way of handling conflict:

Rate each item as:
a. Usually successful, b. Sometimes successful, c. Rarely successful, d. Never successful
___Avoid it at all costs with everyone
___Avoid conflict with certain people only
___Express it through sarcasm or other indirect ways
___Try to smooth things over or accommodate the other person
___Use your knowledge or position of authority to settle conflict
___Make efforts to be honest
___Use tact and logic to resolve conflict
___Try to find a compromise solution where each of you gives up something
___Engage in collaboration with other person to develop mutual benefits

Think for a moment, how you see the outcome of a conflict:

• If the other person gives in, do you consider that success?
• What sense do you get of how the other person feels about what has happened?
• What do your subsequent interactions tell you about how successful the results were?
• Has your relationship improved as a result of the conflict?
• What level of honesty do you feel has resulted? Do you notice an increase or decrease?
• What have you learned about yourself and the other person?

A prevalent source of conflict comes from our different personalities and/or different values, which affects our ego and results in stress. Also, we may engage in conflict as a way to ease our own uncomfortable feelings—e.g. to “get back” at someone, present or past, or when someone says something that triggers old feelings of hurt or anger. How can you find ways to get past those and keep your ego intact?

“Half of the conflicts in your head get resolved when you seek to understand instead of seeking to be understood. Try it!” ― Nitya Prakash

1. Recognize when you are taking other person’s words or actions personally
• Just because someone has a different idea, opinion, or way of doing things doesn’t mean he/she is smarter, better, or more justified.
• Remember that the other person has their own ego they are trying to protect or boost
• When you feel threatened, it means you are giving power to the other person
• Create a mantra for yourself: “I am just as worthwhile as a person, and my thoughts and ideas have just as much value as anyone else’s.”

2. Put your own ego aside and focus on the other person
• Avoid spending your energy trying to defend yourself, giving a “one-up” response, or trying to convince the other person your ideas or ways are better
• Ask questions of the other person to expand or clarify their ideas—and keep doing this until they run out of things to say
• This needs to be done with a genuine interest and sincere tone of voice
• Avoid making any comments or rebuttals on what the other person is saying
• Treat this as an interview for you to learn more about the other person
• You will often find the other person settles down and may even reflect on what he/she has said as not that valid or important

3. View every conflict as an opportunity to learn more about others and yourself
• As you focus on the other person, and put aside your persistent ego, you will gain perspective and your ego will get quieter
• You can more readily recognize how the other person is trying to shore up their ego and even feel some empathy for them
• It can help you recognize and benefit from your differences
• This sets the stage for a more collaborative and cooperative process

Winning a conflict is a short-lived feeling of satisfaction. The person who loses is not satisfied, and the win/lose dynamic only prompts them to find a way to “win” the next time. Your “win” sets up a recurring cycle of future conflicts, or causes the other person to retreat and avoid you. Think about when you have been on the losing side of a conflict. How did it make you feel? How did it affect your subsequent interactions with the other person? Keep this in mind the next time you find yourself involved in a conflict.

It’s all about Attitude!
Think about conflict as an opportunity to be creative, to learn, and to energize good will by being open to different ideas and ways of doing things.

“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”
— William James

Being human, despite some helpful suggestions, it is likely you will find yourself unable to avoid or improve all your conflict situations. Set reasonable expectations by practicing these ideas in situations that are manageable and don’t stir up big threats to your sense of well-being.

Wishing you the best!
Feel free to contact me with questions or suggestions you have from your own experiences.

Please share this with anyone you think might be interested.


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