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Five tips for handling conflict

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Five tips for handling conflict – Live Great – Great Eastern Life

Conflict – at work, among friends or with a loved one – is inevitable. Rather than viewing it as a negative situation to be avoided, turn conflict into a chance to clear the air, examine expectations and develop solutions to relate better to one another. Here are five ways to turn conflict into opportunities to improve communication.

  1. Stay calm
    Although it is tempting to start raising your voice to make your point, staying collected is important so as not to escalate the situation. Arguing is ineffective and raises even more barriers. Instead, maintain a calm attitude so that a productive discussion can begin after the ‘storm’ has passed. Sometimes, people just need to be heard so let them express themselves. But if things get verbally abusive, step in firmly but calmly. Say: “I know you are very angry right now, but please calm down so that we can talk things through and resolve this. If you need some time to cool off, I am going to excuse myself and we can talk again when you are calm.”

  2. Take responsibility, ask questions and commit to a solution
    If you are the one at fault, admit it sincerely and take responsibility – it’s the quickest way to resolve a fight. Say sincerely: “You are right, it is my fault. This is what I will do to make up for it.” Even if you are not the one at fault, taking the position that you are willing to help resolve the problem can de-escalate the issue and begin the process of finding a solution. Say: “I may be wrong, let’s examine what happened and study the facts.” Remember that conflict usually arises due to poor communication, assumptions or unmet expectations. Asking some questions, clarifying each other’s meaning and expectations can help uncover the reasons for the conflict and work towards resolution. Turn conflict on its head by committing to reach a resolution. Say: “Both of us can resolve this problem together. Let’s examine what went wrong and work towards fixing it and preventing more of these issues from cropping up.”

  3. Analyse mutual expectations
    One of the most common causes of conflict is differing expectations. To resolve this, communicate clearly what your expectations were and try to understand the expectations of the other party. This can help uncover misunderstandings and help increase awareness of what to expect in the future.

  4. Recognise that we all may have different perspectives
    Sometimes, misunderstanding and conflict stem from different perceptions and/or beliefs. This is understandable given that everyone has a different background, culture, values or belief system. Try to empathise by getting the other part to explain why they acted/reacted the way they did. It may be an entirely innocent mistake or you may have misinterpreted their actions/words. Don’t make judgment calls too readily (and thus succumb to emotion) until you understand where the other person is coming from. If your viewpoints differ greatly, be ready to agree to disagree.

  5. Watch your emotional triggers
    Conflicts by nature are emotional – but don’t let your emotions get in your way. When you are angry, threatened, hurt, upset or otherwise facing an emotional response, take a deep breath and tackle the situation objectively. Be mindful that just because you don’t like a situation that it has to turn into an area to fight about or that it implies a personal slight. By leaving judgment and emotion aside, you can tackle a situation more effectively.

    Try to frame how you feel in a manner that conveys your emotions, but also your expectations and a reasonable solution. Say: “I am upset when you are late because it makes me feel that you do not respect my time. Next time, try to be punctual or let me know as soon as you can if you are running late” instead of: “You are always late, you don’t respect me at all!” Stay away from exaggeration, embellishment or name-calling – these can cause more hurt feelings and greater conflict. Deescalate emotional confrontations by acknowledging the other person and paraphrasing what they are saying. Offer a solution if you have one. Say: “I understand what you’re saying. You feel as if I don’t value your time if I am constantly late. I could not help it this time as I had an urgent meeting, but I will try to be more punctual in the future.”
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