By Jennifer Rego, MSW, LICSW
When it comes to conflict to you ever think:
- “I would rather not deal with it now, there is so much else going on”
- “This scenario always happens when I speak up”
- “I hate bringing things up because I don’t know how it will go, or if the person will be upset”.
- “I don’t know how to say what I want to say or even begin, I just might keep it to myself”.
Discussing conflict can be hard. There are times when we may feel the timing isn’t right so it can get pushed to the back burner if it’s not something imminent. It can be hard to share feelings especially if you were not raised in a household where feelings were permitted and explored. It can also be difficult when the person you need to speak too is not equipped to deal with their own feelings or yours too.
There are also many different types of conflict. Conflict is not always negative and can result in changes that are positive. We must accept that some conflicts are unavoidable and can lead to ongoing issues between yourself and another person?
Research shows us that there are 5 main concepts to strive for when managing a conflict.
Researchers have identified five key themes that help track the direction of conflict management research. They are negotiation, mediation, trust, conflict management styles and performance. Emotional intelligence is learned, and gain be worked on and improved. Individuals can understand their style based on culture, environment, and past experiences.
Below we have some things to shift your thinking. Consider:
- What were the messages you received about conflict growing up?
- What are your goals in this conversation?
- What is the most important aspect for you in this situation? (Being able to be heard, understood, listening, or sharing mutually)
- Is something unfair right now? Am I aware of it and is there a need for balance?
- What is my conflict style? (Collaborating, competing, avoiding, accommodating, and compromising)
If you have identified your thought process, motivation and conflict style, you’re not ready to find ways to focus that tough conversation into an open dialogue where you can feel heard.
10 Steps to Focus Your Discussion
- Accept what is happening. This doesn’t mean you have to like it.
- Become aware of your internal experiences and triggers & the other persons.
- Aim to listen actively to the problem/complaint/situation/issue.
- Actively participate, engage in appropriate eye contact, body language and tone.
- Manage your expectations to the current conversation, outcomes in this moment.
- Separate the person from the problem and view it from another perspective.
- Work to find an agreeable stop point.
- STOP if there is safety/threats/changes in behavior that feels unsafe.
- Agree to come back to it and discuss when parties are stable.
- Find a mediation or therapy environment or other neutral third party for help if communication loops continue.
There are ways to manage things and trying to work on the conflicts in our relationships and ourselves. By following the desire to work on issues with the right skills in place, it will only help and eventually improve when we are committed to understanding each other better. As always, working with a certified and licensed professional can help you work through your own struggles as well as help with communication needs in relationships. Consider reaching out to a mental health provider today.
Sources: Caputo, A., Marzi, G., Maley, J. and Silic, M. (2019), “Ten years of conflict management research 2007-2017: An update on themes, concepts and relationships”, International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 87-110. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-06-2018-0078
About Jennifer Rego, MSW, LICSW
Jennifer is a psychotherapist with over sixteen years of experience in the mental health field based in Massachusetts. She provides individual and family counseling, movement-based healing, clinical supervision and facilitates various workshops in the