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5 Areas to Look At When Resolving Conflict in Relationships

Aug 26, 2022 | Blog, Lifestyle

Relationships aren’t easy and never will be. Conflict is bound to arise. But believe it or not, occasional conflict and tension in relationships can be good at times! A healthy amount of conflict can help us learn about ourselves and others, uncover unmet needs, create opportunities for improvement in our behavior and habits, and even strengthen the relationship so we grow fonder of one another.

But when conflict goes too far or doesn’t ever get resolved (especially in intimate relationships, marriages, friendships or families) conflict can more often than not worsen. That’s why having proper techniques in place to handle challenging moments are key to the health of the relationship and to your own health too.

Resolution of the matter won’t happen immediately nor will remembering to always use these 5 areas I am about to discuss. But if you take time to practice these areas when caught in challenging situations, you’ll be better equipped to handle conflict with grace and ease. Here are 5 areas to look at when resolving conflict for happier and healthier relationships:


1 — Communication

Using effective communication as a tool to intervene in conflict is the foundation by which all other strategies can work from. Without communication, making peace and coming to a settled agreement are harder to attain. Communication involves actually wanting to have the conversation in the first place to move past conflict (most often we shut down or avoid conflict because it threatens us, i.e stonewalling), or watching our body language, tone, manner and style. We must also look at preventing roadblocks we put in front of us like criticism or defensiveness. It’s also vital to establish a safe and open space for communication so that conflict can settle. Ways to improve communication include softening up the start by saying something positive about the person or tuning into bodily sensations before reacting or learning to let our guards down especially in moments of misunderstanding. If we can learn to communicate in a calm and non defensive manner, we’re already one step ahead at getting to the bottom of the issue. Next time you’re faced with conflict in a relationship, you may check in with that person to ask “Are you up for having a conversation to figure this out…?



2 — Humor

Sometimes arguments can start out of nowhere or get stirred by something small and petty. This happens to the best of us. Adding in humor to disrupt a small confrontation has the ability to reduce defensiveness and frustration but also prevent escalation. Humor can instantly lighten the atmosphere and mood of others and break tension too. Using a bit of humor is especially helpful amongst intimate partnerships, marriages, siblings, or friends who may catch themselves in frequent disagreements or arguments. Of course, there is a time and place for humor. Humor is best used with lighter confrontations or moments of bicker, as opposed to serious situations that require a more respectful approach. In general, when it comes to resolving conflict to maintain a happy and healthy relationship, there’s nothing a little humor can’t fix. Next time you’re caught in a minor confrontation, think about a harmless but playful way you can break the ice and lighten the mood instantly.



3 — Empathy

Empathy is about resting your full attention on the other person while you are speaking or listening. There is a layer of deep understanding shared by one party to another. It’s about connecting with another person’s thoughts, feelings or desires in the most authentic way possible. As a listener, it’s helpful to pay attention to things like tone, or the space between the words or even the non verbal body language being used. Empathy is about going above and beyond your initial feeling and reaction to what someone is going through. Sure, we can still resolve conflict without empathy, but with empathy, we can get to a resolution a lot faster and we reduce the bitterness toward each other that comes with conflict. Next time you are confronted by someone close to you, take a moment to really think about why that person is feeling the way they are by putting yourself in their shoes.



4 — Understanding

Being able to see eye-to-eye and objectively understand what someone is telling us is critical to how well and how fast we can move past conflict. Most of the time, there can be a lot of misunderstanding around what’s actually being argued about, so you end up going in circles which leads to more confusion. More often than not, the main point of the conversation gets buried under strong emotions or opinions. When you actually learn to set those emotions and opinions aside, and backtrack to see how the argument came about, you almost always can cut right to the chase in resolving the conflict. Having understanding of the main point requires having a deeper awareness of what’s being said but it’s also checking in on what’s being said. We can’t attempt to fix something unless we know what we’re fixing. Next time you sense some misunderstanding, you may check in with that person by asking “If I understand you correctly, you want, you feel xxx…” or “Could you help me understand the root of why you are feeling this way?



5 — Space & Time

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. This is true in some cases. Having time away from a challenging situation can help us figure out what truly matters. There are times where distancing ourselves from the conflict can help us understand the other person’s perspective and vice versa. Sometimes doing this will feel worse than the conflict itself, but taking that time and space isn’t selfish. There’s a lot that can be resolved by simply removing yourself from the equation for a period of time and letting the peace unfold. While taking time apart to cool the fire can be helpful, not ever addressing it or holding a long-time grudge can be detrimental to the health of the relationship. You may think that by not addressing it, you are saving yourself the trouble, but the resentment and hard feelings almost always linger. Finding balance in this is important, but knowing that you can give yourself that time and space when it feels right is even more so! Next time you are in the midst of conflict with no resolution in sight, stop to ask yourself: “Do I need to remove myself from this situation to calm myself down and recenter…”?



A Final Word on Conflict in Relationships

Relationship conflicts can be anything from disagreements to debates, disagreements or struggles between two people in a relationship. Whether it is small or big, a conflict in a relationship is normal and in fact, should be embraced for learning and growth when occurring in healthy amounts. But the real importance lies in how well we address these conflicts and how we deal with them. By focusing on the solution and not the problem, we have a greater chance at restoring peace with the people who matter to us most.

Written Health Coach Lydia, NBC-HWC

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