There’s a chill in the air, a knot in your stomach, and a quickening of your pulse. You’re amid a conflict. It’s an uncomfortable, often stressful situation that everyone, from every walk of life, faces at some point. Conflict is woven into the fabric of our lives, within family circles, friendships, or the workplace. When left unaddressed, conflict can have harmful effects on our mental health, causing stress, anxiety, or even leading to depression. It’s how we handle these conflicts that define our relationships and mental wellbeing. The good news is that managing conflict is a skill, and like any skill, it can be learned and honed. Read on to learn more about why conflicts occur and some effective strategies to manage conflict in your everyday life.
Why do conflicts occur?
To effectively navigate conflict, it’s helpful to first understand what sparks it. There are numerous triggers for conflict and identifying them can provide a clearer path towards resolution. Here are some common reasons why conflicts often occur:
- Differences in opinion: People have unique perspectives shaped by their individual experiences, beliefs, and values. These differences can lead to disagreements and conflict.
- Miscommunication: Ambiguous messages, misinterpretations, or lack of communication can easily create misunderstandings and trigger conflict.
- Unmet needs: If an individual’s needs – physical, emotional, or psychological – are not met, they may feel neglected or undervalued, leading to conflict.
- Incompatible goals: When individuals or groups have goals that interfere with each other, it can generate conflict.
- Personality clashes: Sometimes, personalities just don’t mix. Differing temperaments and behaviours can often cause friction and conflicts.
- Unresolved past issues: Past disputes or hurts that were never properly addressed can resurface, leading to ongoing conflict.
- Perceived unfairness: If someone feels they are being treated unfairly or discriminated against, it can lead to conflict.
- Change: Sudden or unexpected changes, especially if poorly managed, can cause tension and conflict.
- Power dynamics: Conflicts often arise due to struggles for control or dominance in a relationship, team, or organisation.
Effective strategies to manage conflict
Embrace the Conflict
When storm clouds of disagreement gather, it’s natural to seek shelter in denial or avoidance. But a storm ignored is a storm that grows. So, let’s step into the rain and face the conflict. Acceptance is the first step toward resolution.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that a problem exists and confront it head-on. Remember, it’s okay to disagree; conflict is a natural part of human interaction.
Master the Art of Communication
Think of a recent disagreement. Did you feel unheard? Misunderstood? That’s where effective communication comes into play. It’s a two-way street: voicing your feelings respectfully and actively listening to the other person to ensure that you’re fully present and genuinely try to understand the other person’s point of view.
Winning Isn’t the Goal, Understanding Is
Conflict resolution isn’t a boxing match, with a victor and a defeated. It’s about understanding each other’s viewpoints and finding common ground. Open your mind, wear their shoes, see their perspective. Be empathetic and open-minded. Remember, it’s not about who’s right, but what’s right.
Tip: If after some time, you are unable to come to a resolution, suggest taking a break from the conversation to reflect and come back to it fresh later.
Use ‘I’ Statements
‘I’ statements are a powerful tool in conflict resolution. Ever noticed how a sentence beginning with ‘you’ puts the listener on the defensive? For example, “You always…,” or “You never…,”
Flip the script. Start with ‘I’. “I feel…,” “I think…,” expresses your feelings without blaming the other person.
Reach Out for Help
Conflicts can sometimes spiral beyond our control, causing significant distress. In such cases, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. You might want to ask a trusted friend or family member to join the conversation and help guide you, or at the workplace consider asking for help from the HR team. You could also seek support from a mental health care professional (such as a CAREinMIND counsellor) for advice or guidance on the conflict.
Conflict may be a challenging aspect of our lives, but with the right strategies, it can be managed effectively. Remember, it’s crucial not to avoid conflict but to approach it constructively. When the going gets tough, remember that our free professional counsellors are always here for you.
Please note: Physical violence is never okay. If you are experiencing this, please contact 1800RESPECT for support. If it is an emergency, please call 000.
Our CAREinMIND counsellors are available 24/7 on 1300 096 269 or click the floating chat button on the right. The service is free for people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.