Conflict is an unavoidable part of life.
All of us will at one point or another get into intense disagreements with our friends, relatives, and romantic partners.
But so many of us have no idea how to handle the aftermath of a conflict in a healthy way. We feel nervous about discussing the topic at hand, we shy away from having tough conversations, and we would rather forget that it ever happened than take a real stab at solving the problem.
Healthy conflict resolution skills often don’t come naturally. Like any other skill, it takes practice and commitment to get it right and make it a habit.
So, how can you come out the other side stronger after an argument?
Take Time to Cool Down
After an argument, you might be feeling pretty heated. And when you’re angry, you’re more likely to say something that you wish you could take back later.
Instead of lashing out, take a little time to yourself. Go for a walk or run, write in a journal, or grab a box of tissues and have a good cry—whatever you need to do to feel level-headed again. It’s very important you put it out of your mind, at least for a while. If you find yourself thinking about the disagreement, you are not cooling down.
Then, when the worst of your anger has subsided, you can return to the situation with a clear outlook.
If it is late in the day and someone is trying to sleep, don’t force a conversation. Agree to address it tomorrow.
Acknowledge What Happened
Sometimes, we wish a conflict would just blow over. We think that if we wait until everyone’s emotions have cooled down, we can just bypass the whole “resolution” part altogether—forget about it, leave it in the past, and pretend it never happened.
But ignoring a conflict won’t solve the problem at hand. When the time is right, you need to acknowledge what happened and make it clear that you intend to make things right rather than dismissing it.
We all get on the defensive sometimes. It’s just human nature—we can’t help it. But that isn’t an excuse for neglecting to apologize.
Even if you don’t think that you did anything wrong, reflect honestly on your actions. Could you have been more understanding? Did you fail to see the other person’s point of view or judge them unfairly?
Before you start discussing what happened and how you can move forward, say your apologies to start off on the right foot. It shows humility and self-awareness on your part.
Switch Your Mindset
Think about the last time you got into a disagreement with someone. Were you upset with them? Or were you upset with the situation? Did the two of you put your heads together to tackle the problem? Or did you take your frustrations out on each other?
Sometimes, the reason that we get into conflict is that we focus our anger on the other person rather than the problem at hand.
When you begin the resolution process, think about how both of you can tackle the problem together rather than picking each other apart. This mindset shift can make it that much easier to find a real solution.
Get to the Root
In order to solve a conflict, you must look beyond the surface level disagreements. You need to get to the root of the problem—and doing so means getting into uncomfortable territory. It means getting past the petty disagreements and admitting what’s really bothering you.
This requires vulnerability. It requires honesty. It requires a willingness to be humble and to own up to your mistakes. And it may be more difficult than simply brushing the conflict under the rug. But in the end, it will be worth the effort.
Stuck in an ongoing conflict with a partner or relative? Wondering if some guidance from a third-party might help you work it out? Contact me today to discuss your options.