Conflict happens in every area of life. Whether it’s at work, home or school, there will always be situations that require you to use conflict resolution skills to set things right.
The bad news, if you want to have strong, healthy relationships with people, you can’t just run and hide during times of tension.
The good news, you can learn how to use conflict resolution skills productively.
They most important thing to remember is that no matter who you’re dealing with, they’re a person first. They have needs, wants and ideas just like everyone else.
So, whether you need to finally speak up at work or are trying to resolve some tension at home, these 6 steps can help you develop the conflict resolution skills you need.
6 Steps to Develop Conflict Resolution Skills
1. Decide to do Something!
Before you can start constructively using conflict resolution skills, you need to decide ahead of time what your game plan will be in conflict situations – you need to speak up. Maybe not right away (if you or the other person needs to cool off or your need to consider your approach) but resolve to actually solve the problem instead of dancing around it.
Yeah, it’s sometimes easier to brush things off or to tell yourself not to get involved, but a lot of times the path of least resistance doesn’t get you very far.
And, it’s much easier to voice your concerns in any situation (especially uneasy conflict ones) if you’ve decided to speak up ahead of time.
So, decide now that even if it’s uncomfortable or awkward, you will speak up for what’s right and be a person that resolves things!
2. Tell the Person That There is Conflict
Let me tell you a story:
I once went through a phase at work were I was having multiple people come up and tell me all about the problems they’d been having with various coworkers. Their intentions were good and they honestly wanted advice to help fix the problems.
But, more often than not, it all boiled down to one question. They would ask “should I speak to their boss?” And, without fail when I ‘d reply with, “have you already told <insert name of person the problem was with> about your concerns?” the answer would always be “no.”
So, next time you’re wondering about how to deal with a person, ask yourself if you’ve actually talked to the person. I get that this can be stressful even just to think about (not many like confrontation) but you should try and remember two things.
A) How can you expect someone to solve a problem they might not even know about?
B) Most people want to be good people. So, even if it stings, most people appreciate the honesty and will work to help fix the problem without having to escalate the situation.
But, here’s a word of caution. If you’re going to tell someone they’ve created a problem, aren’t doing something right, or have hurt your feelings, make sure you have good timing.
3. Ask Yourself if Now is the Right Time
I think we can all understand how important timing is.
Having your low fuel light turn on when you’re on the way to the gas station is no sweat. But, when that light comes on in the middle of a traffic jam when you’re running late for an appointment, your stress levels shoot through the roof.
You get the picture: timing is everything.
So, how do you pick the right time? Here is a list of things to consider:
Are you at an emotional extreme?
If you are really happy, really sad, or really mad (or any other emotional extreme), it probably isn’t the right time to address conflict. Being in an emotional extreme while trying to deal with conflict can lead to you being too harsh, too nonspecific, or even too lenient.
To handle conflict in the best way, try to pick a time when you are calm, (relatively) emotionally neutral, and without mental distractions. Emotions may be tied to the time of day, so pay attention to that as well.
This will help you stay focused on the points you need to discuss and discuss them in the best way.
Is the person you’re talking to at an emotional extreme?
Did the person you need to resolve something with just come out of a meeting where they were yelled at for 30 minutes? Are they overly distracted with personal matters?
Just as you need to make sure you are in a good place to deal with the conflict at hand, try and be mindful of where the person you’re talking to is at too.
Is this still a timely issue?
Yeah, there is merit to talk about issues or concerns that have been bugging you for a while. But, there’s also a time just to let stuff go.
If your best friend betrayed your trust six months ago and you haven’t worked it out yet, then you should probably rehash things and fix it.
But, if you’re mad at your husband for driving too fast on the way to Christmas dinner six months ago, maybe you should let it slide and resolve to speak up sooner next time.
You get the picture. Try to choose a good time to bring stuff up.
4. Location Matters Too
When you are trying to have a serious conversation with someone, you need to make sure your environment isn’t preventing you from getting the message across.
If you are bringing up a mistake that someone made or pointing out your feelings that have been hurt, you’ll probably want to make sure you’re in a private setting (nobody likes being called out in public).
You should also be sure that your location isn’t going to intimidate someone or hinder the conversation. Keep the spot neutral so you don’t have to worry about whose turf you’re on.
5. Be clear and concise
When was the last time you liked someone beating around the bush when they were trying to get a message across?
So, figure out what your point is (ahead of time) and say it in the clearest and most diplomatic way possible.
If you need to, go ahead and practice privately before you talk to the person. Or, use a friend as a sounding board.
Get your message out and don’t keep circling! And, do give the person a chance to speak, listen to them, and if needed engage in a conversation around resolution.
6. Move Forward
So, you’ve had the conversation and things are looking better. What now? Move on!
Once the problem has been corrected there is no reason to keep bringing it up.
But, what about if things aren’t getting better?
There are two ways to approach this scenario. First, you can evaluate the severity of the issue and whether or not it’s worth pursuing. And if it’s not worth it, you can assume the “oh well, I tried” train of thought.
But, if it’s an issue that does need to be resolved, you need to start this process again.
Before you do that though, make sure you’ve allowed the person time to actually fix the behavior. People might not change overnight, but if you can tell they’re trying and moving in the right direction, allow them some time.
Conflict Resolution Takes Time & Practice But Can Be Done
Even with these tips, developing conflict resolution skills take time and courage. Yes, it will be tough. Sometimes it might even get uncomfortable. But, you can use these tips to help you get through it.
So, next time there’s a problem, speak up and get it resolved!