Learning to Resolve Conflict

From time to time you may find yourself in a clash with somebody, it happens to us all at some stage. You can put into practice the methods you have learned for stopping the exchange getting out of hand with behaviours such as screaming, shouting and aggression. Even then, though, you can still have an unresolved situation that can fester.  If you have both taken time on your own to cool off then the situation is still up in the air and will need some further dialogue to put things back on an even keel.  If you decided to stay and talk, the quarrel still needs to be sorted out in one way or another.

Sometimes, it is ok to just say let’s forget about it…agree to disagree and move on, but depending on the situation that may not be possible.  Sometimes, things just need to be sorted out in a separate sitting. So what can you do to resolve the conflict?

Well, it depends.  It depends on several things in fact.

1. Were you in the wrong?  Really, I mean.  In an argument you end up fighting for your cause even though in hindsight you may have been out of line.  Determine whether you are as sure of your correctness as you were during the argument.
2. Was the other person wrong?  Where they really wrong though or are you still angry and unable to see their point of view?
3. Maybe you were both wrong and the argument was stupid
4. Maybe you were both right
5. How emotionally developed is the other person? Are you more emotionally developed than them or maybe it’s the other way around (I define emotionally developed here as being in touch with your own feelings and also with the feelings of others and being able to control your behaviours despite what you are feeling).  This will be a factor over who makes the first move!

If you were in the wrong then it is up to you to resolve the conflict and nothing does that better than saying that you are sorry. You may have only been partially wrong, perhaps you had an intense over reaction to something somebody said/did, in this case you need only apologise for your bad reaction.  You need to make it clear to the other person that although you are not happy about their behaviour, you did not intend to shout at them, scare them or hurt their feelings by your reaction and that this is what you are apologising for.  Let them know that you are trying to build a bridge if they are willing. Not everybody is good at apologising and it is very common for one person to apologise while the second refuses.  If this happens, don’t withdraw your apology and get angry. The other person may not have worked through their feelings yet, or maybe they are not capable of seeing themselves in the wrong and admitting it.  Calmly tell them that you have tried to resolve the conflict with your apology but that there are further issues that you hope they will deal with.  If you need to, leave their presence again to avoid the situation from deteriorating.

If the other person was wrong, then obviously, it is up to them to resolve the conflict…but you could be waiting.  Some people will never apologise, will never do any kind of self-reflection or will never admit to any wrong doing. These types will stubbornly hang on to grievances and never forgive…unless of course you make the first move, then they might :).  This is then up to you whether you want to or not.  But, most people should be able to calm down eventually and see their own behaviour for what it was and attempt to resolve the conflict themselves. If someone can come to you to say they are sorry then you should appreciate how hard that actually is and really try to meet them half-way, even if you are still angry and upset yourself.

Maybe you were both right or both wrong.  This one should be easier as both people have things to apologies for and to make up for, but…it leads me on to the last point above, no. 5, and this is where a lot of problems can arise.  Regardless of rightful blame, who is the most emotionally developed, i.e. who is most in touch with theirs and others feelings?  If you know the other person is not capable of much self-reflection and only knows how to express their emotions with anger and aggression and rarely can see a situation from another’s point of view, then it can be up to you to resolve the conflict, I’m afraid.  Not having as developed a feeling side does not make someone a bad person and in all likelihood they have other great skills that make them fantastic in other areas. But if you value this person and wish to stay on good terms with them, you must bite the bullet and make the first move.  This does NOT mean going and apologising to them or admitting any fault if you had none.  It means being able to master your own feelings and reaching a place of calmness so that you can approach the person for a discussion on what happened.  Maybe a calm rational explanation of your side of the story is all you will need but any kind of accusations of their wrong-doing will only make them defend themselves more.  You need to develop skills here in order to resolve conflict with people who are quite obstinate in their positions and above all else you need to have resolved your own feelings and be certain you can remain calm, even in the face of pure obstinacy. Showing someone how to successfully resolve a conflict and then move on can also lead to growth on their side as well as yours.

Remember, at all times, that the other person is a human being who wants to be valued, understood and to feel important.  People want to have their feelings validated, and this does not mean that you have to agree with them, but rather that you listen to them and accept that they have a right to feel the way they do and that you understand their position.

Saying sorry does not automatically mean that you are accepting the blame/liability for everything, sometimes you just need to let the other person know that you are sorry for hurting them.

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  1. Please let me know why i get so much angry while i teach my 10year old son.he does’nt do his classwork,very careless in school as well as while i teach him.i keep my cool for up to 2hours but after that when he continues with his careless attitude i burst out cursing myself and him with rude words later i regret with deep pain that i should’nt have said it.how should i end this pattern.i want him to get better in academics because he knows everything but is taking his studies in a silly manner.

    • Hi Lax, thanks for posting. First I think you need to find out why he is not interested in his school work. Once you know the real reason, it will be easier to fix. You can’t just force him as this will make him rebel which is what you seem to be seeing now. Also, you need to take a step back from trying to force him, use some positive reinforcement instead. For instance, give him something good to work towards, a treat he thinks is worth it. It doesn’t have to be expensive just something he will only get if he accomplishes his school work. Best of luck.

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