These six simple steps can take the sting out of conflict and lead to peaceful, mutually satisfying resolution. I have seen, over and over again, how relationships improve when my clients begin practicing these steps in their lives. Let these six simple principles for conflict resolution help you on the path toward a more peaceful life and better interactions with others.
1. Detach. If you weren’t personally involved with this conflict, how differently would you feel? Do what you can to self-soothe, be objective, calm yourself, and not take it personally. It can help to approach the conflict as if you were an objective outside witness, simply observing.
2. Be Curious. Be with the conflict in the spirit of inquiry, asking yourself questions like, What is the other person feeling? What lesson might be hidden here? Where are my healthy boundaries around this issue?
3. Fair hearing. As far as possible, let the other person express him or herself, without your evaluating, judging, or condemning either them or what they have to say. If uncomfortable feelings come up, breathe through them. Witness to yourself how you are feeling without acting on those feelings: there is nothing wrong with anger, for instance–anger is a healthy sign that something needs to change. But some of the things people do with anger, like saying mean or hurtful things, can be damaging.
4. Echo. Repeat back what you heard. You will be amazed at how we often mis-hear things, and what a profoundly healing effect it has on a situation to simply be heard. Also, if your conflict-partner has said hurtful things to you, simply stating what you heard can be really eye-opening: often, people simply don’t realize the effect their words have on others.
5. Express. Rather than attacking with “You” statements, use “I” statements to say how you feel. No one can argue with your feelings: they’re yours. Take responsibility for your feelings, but stay as clean as possible, not allowing them to make you behave in less-than-kind ways. Making the choice to stay in your truth with both strength and compassion is tremendously empowering.
6. Find the Win-Win. Perceive the other person as your partner in conflict resolution rather than as an enemy. Ask questions like “What can we do to make this feel better? What would be a good solution for both of us?”
Take this quiz to find our if you fight fairly or not.
By Cait Johnson, author of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air (SkyLight Paths, 2003).