How to Have More Productive Conflict

All people experience conflict with others, but not everyone practices the conflict resolution skills they need to ensure those conflicts are resolved in a productive manner.

The truth is, most of us shrink away from any sign of contention — either avoiding the subject all together or turning to passive aggressive means, neither of which bring about anything good.

What causes conflict?

In any place where human beings live with or around each other, conflict is bound to happen. Here’s why:

Conflict arises when people’s contrasting opinions, values, or beliefs come up against one another in opposition. 

Each of us navigates this world from a unique perspective – one that has been slowly and carefully shaped over the course of a lifetime of experiences. Day by day, we decide who we are and why. These identities become very personal – even more so when we feel they are being attacked in the midst of a disagreement.

If we perceive a threat to our needs, interests or concerns, conflict arises, and often within a shroud of disagreement.

Conflict doesn’t necessarily mean that one party or the other is wrong, it just means that the opposing party may think differently or come from a different place. Add a few layers of emotion and personal insecurity and you have a mixture ripe for conflict.

How can I approach conflict better?

Conflict can really knock you down if you aren’t prepared. These tips will help you approach difficult conflict with a clear head and calm heart.

1. Get to the root of the issue. Misunderstanding is incredibly fertile ground for conflict. These misunderstandings tend to exaggerate the real disagreement considerably, leaving both parties grasping for the real issue. See if you can remove those layers of emotion to get at the real issue. It may be much more easily solved than you initially thought.

Example: You are angry with your partner for not doing the dishes, when you do them at home the vast majority of the time. But maybe, it’s not the dishes you care about but the fact that you feel unappreciated. 

2. Take emotion out of the equation. People tend to react based on their perceptions of a situation. This often leads to outbursts of anger, sadness or deep regret. In order to best understand the real threat, look past your lenses of culture, values, beliefs and personal history.

Example: You ask a friend for advice on a new outfit you just purchased; they say it’s “not their favorite.” You blow up at them out of personal insecurity about your weight, rather than accept that they just don’t like the outfit.

3. See the issue from your opponent’s perspective. Conflicts are the result of opposing beliefs or values, and oftentimes they are both positive ones. The other person is not automatically the villain. Can you work a little harder to understand them?

Example: You and your partner disagree about how to spend the evening together. You’d like a quiet evening to chat on the couch, but your partner would like to watch a movie. While you may perceive that your partner is “checking out” and wants to avoid conversation, they may really just be desiring a little rest after a long day. While they may perceive that you are nagging them for quality time, you may really just be seeking connection.

Both good things. Just different things. Can you compromise?

4. Listen for what’s not being said. Passive aggressive behavior can be really damaging to conflict resolution. Listen past what is being said out loud to underlying messages and see if you can work through them. Try to do this without being assumptive.

Example: Your mother-in-law receives word that you’ll be staying with your parents longer than you will with hers on your vacation away. Rather than expressing her direct feelings, she responds by saying, “If that’s what you really want.” It’s passive aggressive and doesn’t help anyone. Try to read into the underlying issue and address it. 

5. Make understanding (not winning) the goal. In the end, reconciliation should be your first priority. Conflict is not a game to be won; nor is it about “who’s wrong and who’s right.” Do all you can to make sure the other person feels genuinely respected and supported in the process, then work through it together.

Example: Your coworker feels slighted by your brand new leadership of an important team project that he had expected to win. He may know you were more qualified, but that doesn’t negate the hurt. You feel you deserved the position. How can you make him feel respected and understood?

Conflict management is a tricky thing, but in the end it’s extremely important! Keep these tips under your belt and use them to resolve even the most complex arguments. Good luck!


How do you feel in the midst of a conflict? Any bad habits you’d like to break? Which of these tips was the most helpful to you? Let us know in the comments!


Peggy B
Peggy B1 years ago


ANA MARIJA R1 years ago

Good reminders. Thank you.

Jim V
Jim Ven1 years ago


Jerome S
Jerome S1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Jaime J
Jaime J1 years ago

Thank you!!

Joshua A
Joshua A2 years ago

Very important to take this advice, and choose whether or not you want to use this. We're not obligated to follow this, but it would be wise to practice with these pieces of advice. Thank you for sharing. The more educated we are on how to improve ourselves and make ourselves and other people happy, the better off we'll be.

Holly L
Holly Lawrence2 years ago

Why do I want conflict! The goal is to avoid it! Just be direct with someone - speak the truth - don't overthink it!

Rev. Royce B
Royce Beasley2 years ago

**** TU ****

Rev. Royce B
Royce Beasley2 years ago

**** Very Intersting ****

Jerome S
Jerome S2 years ago