Relationships are hard work and in order to create healthy communication patterns, one must learn to have successful conflict resolutions. Many times you might find yourself at a communication impasse and feel increasing frustration. It’s common to feel as though there isn’t a way around it and just to escape the conflict or to react negatively to it… but there is a better way.
Inter-personal conflicts are normal occurrences in relationships, work situations and anywhere you find someone disagreeing with your thinking! It can be overcome with good strategic skills and methodical responses, which we will explore here.
The first few things to look at when analyzing conflict is whether the conflict occurs often on the same subject, with the same person or at a particular time of the day which is possibly more stressful. The solution in these cases may be as easy as discussing deeper things at calmer times, or letting go of certain topics that are unimportant to the other person and sharing them with others who find them important.
Sometimes you may be having a conflict with someone who no longer values the same things you do, you find there is less and less in common, or there never seems to be a “middle ground” of agreement. In this case you need to decide if the friendship has mutual benefit and is worth salvaging. It takes too much energy to keep something viable on one side without mutuality, especially if you find as though you are the one to make concessions or accommodations to keep them happy. These are good indicators that this person is not a good intellectual match for you.
Secondly, remember that you are only responsible for your side of a dialogue and how you respond and engage with it. In any conflict, it’s all about sequential escalation. If one person approaches the other with a healthy question or statement but the next statement from the other person is an unhealthy one (involving any form of verbal abuse), then the dialogue should not continue but the abuse should be pointed out and disengage until that person can communicate in a healthy way. Do not enter into a dialogue if this first condition isn’t in place.
Thirdly, when you are in a conflict, focus on what you are thinking and be aware of yourself. Do you listen well, ask questions, or have empathy? What are your current habits? Do you get defensive, escape or detach from really listening? Intentionally slow down, think before you speak and listen more deeply to what and why something is being shared. Overcoming roadblocks to communication patterns is a learned skill and very much worth the effort because it will ease the stress on conflicts because you’ll learn to be less reactive and more engaged in a solution.
When you are in a conflict, it’s good to remember to stay open and curious so that you gain clarity. This will keep you from getting defensive or reactive. Ask questions to uncover more of what the person is trying to convey. What are they feeling? What solutions have they come up with? How can you help? Having fluid thinking as opposed to fixed will allow you to listen well. There may have been other conflicts that trigger a fixed response in you, but remain open to listening to what this current one is about.
Lastly, remember that our brains change and grow over time (neuroplasticity) and these new ways of thinking create new patterns in our brain. You are re-wiring your brain to think differently the more you practice healthy dialogues when you encounter conflicts. You may have learned to respond in a certain way to conflicts, but that doesn’t mean that these habits can’t be un-learned. With practice, you learn to listen better, make more methodical decisions in what you say, grow more empathy, ask better questions, and come to solutions to the problem that the conflict is trying to uncover. You also learn to remain calm and engaged instead of frustrated and enraged. Again, being a student of yourself with each new conflict and seeing what exactly needs to be understood, then following the conversation in healthy dialogue until there is a mutual solution. You will find success!