At one time or another, every person disagrees with someone else. Some possess the ability to resolve issues, or conflict, in a calm and rational manner. Others may become heated and unable to focus on a resolution, but rather the problem. Skills necessary for successful conflict resolution include listening, problem solving and positive communication.
People respond to conflict in different ways. Some respond emotionally, lost in their own feelings, whether they are anger, hurt, confusion, or frustration. Others respond in a more cognitive way, having either positive or negative thoughts surrounding the situation. Others still may respond in a physical manner. Any of these responses can be perceived as potentially threatening to others. It is important to try to keep ourselves calm in the face of conflict, as difficult as that may be. Some may try to avoid conflict all together as they feel it will make the problem worse. Others may take a more passive-aggressive approach in feeling that the other person is in the wrong so they should be the first to admit there is an issue.
It is important to remember that when dealing with conflict the goal is not to get one person to agree with the other. The desired goal is to have both parties come to a conclusion that will work for both. When attempting to solve some type of conflict an area free of distractions is usually a good idea. That way both parties can focus on each other rather than things around them.
So, how do we solve conflict? Start by listening. Really listening. It is important to try to see the other person's point of view and why they are thinking that way even if you do not agree with them. Do not go into the conversation with a preconceived notion that there is a right or wrong solution. Try to remain open minded in that there are many different solutions to the same problem. Share feelings about the problem. In sharing feelings, it is important to not place blame on the other person(s) involved. Utilize a tool called "I" statements. Identify your feeling and why you feel that way. For example, "I feel hurt when I am called derogatory names." This way you are identifying the feeling and the reason for the feeling but not placing blame on the other person.
Which now brings us to problem solving. First identify the problem. Then identify the desired outcome. You can then begin to brainstorm possible solutions to achieve the desired outcome. If necessary, write out possible solutions to the problem at hand. It may be easier for some to do this as some individuals respond better to visual aids. When doing this, it is important to take into account all potential solutions offered. There will be time later to discuss all options.
Once all parties involved feel that they have a sufficient list of solutions, then begins the task of discussing each one. When doing this it is important to remember to continue to listen to each other's rationale for each option. In discussing each option, consider if the option, or even part of the option, may work for your needs in solving the problem. Negotiate. Business men and women do it daily. Why can't we do it for our other problems as well?
In reaching a solution, compromise is often necessary. That way each party involved is able to feel satisfied with the outcome. Remember to state needs clearly and concisely. When working towards a compromise it is important to remember to be flexible as each person is going to have to "give" a little. Be patient with one another. Focus on the primary needs and try not to stray from the issue at hand. Teamwork is helpful.
Most importantly, while attempting to solve said issue remember to utilize positive communication skills. Oftentimes, one is so focused on getting their point across that they will raise their voice in an attempt to get their views heard. Others involved can then become defensive and yell back which now has defeated the whole endeavor. Remain calm. Take a break if you have to. But make sure to come back to deal with the situation. When we avoid conflict there is the potential to worsen the issue.
Not all people think alike. There will always be some sort of conflict in our lives at some point in time. It is how we deal with this conflict that is important. It is important to own your own feelings while being cognizant and respectful of others' feelings.
Some people find that they are just unable to reach a solution on their own, and they need some sort of assistance to do so. Mediation from a third party may be the answer. There are agencies in our area that can assist individuals, couples and families in conflict resolution, including Family Service of the Chautauqua Region, Inc. For more information on scheduling an appointment please call 488-1971.