Relationships will always have conflict. It doesn’t matter what the relationship is (family, friends, job, etc), there will always be conflict at some point within that relationship. It doesn’t matter how connected you are or how much you have in common, there will always be conflict about something. Conflict happens when there are competing ideas and/or personal interests which can lead to misunderstandings or arguments between people. Conflict is a part of life.
Not all conflict is negative if handled well. It can lead to better communication between people, clearer understandings and perspectives, new ideas and creative solutions. However, conflict can be destructive if:
- the conflict isn’t addressed but hidden in the form of irritation and resentment.
- shouting matches occur
- there are verbal putdowns and criticism
- conversation is about right and wrong
- past issues enter the conversation
Possible results if a conflict isn’t resolved
- negative feelings such as resentment and bitterness
- uncooperativeness or undermining
- blame for unfavourable outcomes
- guilt for unfavourable outcomes
- stress spills over into other areas of the relationship
- deterioration or dissolving of relationship
Factors regarding conflict
There are a variety of factors that influence conflict. How you respond to conflict may be related to:
- Who the conflict is with: Some people will defer to someone they consider higher in status or authority.
- What the issue is: consideration is placed on if the matter at hand is important.
- What is at stake: there may be a number of factors here that will determine how someone responds.
- Your personality style:
- Some people are not comfortable with any kind of conflict and will do anything to avoid it, even if it means compromising some deeply held conviction or value.
- There are people who may prefer not to have conflict but will engage in it when it occurs.
- A few people actually relish conflict and ready enter into it or even initiates something in order to have conflict.
Steps for constructive conflict
- Timing: There are four factors to consider for timing. Do not engage if you are tired, not feeling well, angry, or hungry. You are not at your best when in any of these states.
- Perspective: You are not always right. People have different opinions. Listen to the other person’s view. See the issue/problem as separate from the person. This approach makes the problem more manageable.
- Ownership: State what you think the problem is, how it affects you, and what you would like to see differently. This is done using “I” statements.
- Words/ Tone: Have respect. Use words that are not inflammatory or accusatory.
- Be solution oriented: Rather than focusing and dwelling on the problem, look for ways to problem solve. Be creative. Sometimes consider the possibility of negotiating or compromising when able. Sometimes the solution is “agree to disagree”.
- Keep short accounts: Deal with issues as they arise. Once it is dealt with, it should not arise again in future discussions.
Relationship disagreements are an opportunity for growth from both parties.
Judith S. Carscadden