The Keys to Conflict Resolution

Conflict arises from differences. It occurs whenever people disagree over their perceptions, feelings, or opinions.

Sometimes these differences look trivial, but when a conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal and relational need is at the core of the problem. Some have a need to feel safe and secure. Others need to feel respected and valued. Many have a need for greater closeness and intimacy.

If we are out of touch with our feelings or so stressed that we can only pay attention to a limited number of emotions, we won’t be able to understand our own needs. If we don’t understand our deep-seated needs, we will have a hard time communicating with others and staying in touch with what is really troubling us.

When someone has problems with their emotions, it’s often because they’re putting either too much or too little emphasis on them. Putting too much emphasis on emotions compounds them. Too much emphasis strengthens emotions and makes them more intense. But putting too little emphasis on a painful emotional experience, often leads to suppression. This can end in numbness, since cutting off the “bad” emotions also means not being able to feel the “good” ones.

By cutting off our emotions, we lose touch with an important part of ourselves. And in the worst-case scenario, our emotions build up to the point where they become explosive and may even be directed at someone, somewhere, who has nothing at all to do with why we are upset. For example, couples often argue about petty differences—the way she hangs the towels, the way he parts his hair—rather than what is really bothering them.

In personal relationships, a lack of understanding about differing feelings can result in distance, arguments, and breakups. In workplace conflicts, differing perceptions are often at the heart of bitter disputes. When we can recognize the legitimacy of conflicting opinions and become willing to examine them in an environment of compassionate understanding, it opens pathways to creative problem solving, team building, and improved relationships. When we resolve conflict and disagreement quickly and painlessly, mutual trust will flourish.

Successful conflict resolution depends on our ability to:

· Manage stress while remaining alert and calm. By staying calm, we can accurately read and interpret verbal and nonverbal communication.

· Control our emotions and behavior. When we are in control of our emotions, we can communicate out needs without threatening, frightening, or punishing others.

· Pay attention to the feelings being expressed as well as the spoken words of others.

· Be aware of and respectful of differences. By avoiding disrespectful words and actions, we can resolve the problem faster.

Conflict triggers strong emotions and can lead to hurt feelings, disappointment, and discomfort. When handled in an unhealthy manner, it can cause irreparable rifts, resentments, and breakups. But when conflict is resolved in a healthy way, it increases our understanding of one another, builds trust, and strengthens our relationship bonds.

Most human beings want similar things—happiness, health, love, and freedom from financial worry, to name a few. Even when we differ in our ways to get what we want, we can remind ourselves of our common desires. Below are some suggestions to how to find common ground:
* Remember that your peace of mind is yours. No one disturbs it unless you give away your power to them.
* Keep in mind that your goal is to have harmony in your relationships.
* Before speaking, ask yourself, “What am I trying to achieve?”
* Evaluate your intentions. Are you communicating to connect or to injure?
* Would you rather be right or happy? Be willing to let go of your need to be right.
* Reevaluate your expectations of others. When you stop trying to change others, you can be more open and loving.
* Affirm to yourself daily that you deserve love and happiness in your life. Don’t settle for the crumbs when you want the cake.
* Respectfully ask for time to sit down to negotiate the problem.

Use this formula to express yourself:
1. When I saw/heard (concrete action).
2. I felt sad/mad/glad/scared (feeling).
3. I would like (concrete action).
4. Can we work this out together?

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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