Illustration of two people in conflict
Illustration by Skylar Owenby, Western Carolina University

4 Steps To Deal With Conflict

Conflicts can arise in the blink of an eye, and while there are several ways to handle a disagreement, it’s also important to know what the various approaches are so you can decide which works best for you.

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Illustration of two people in conflict
Illustration by Skylar Owenby, Western Carolina University

Conflicts can arise in the blink of an eye, and while there are several ways to handle a disagreement, it’s also important to know what the various approaches are so you can decide which works best for you.

You are fresh out of high school and have been accepted to your dream college, away from your small town. You’re super excited and have told everyone you love, receiving congratulations and warm wishes from them all. You’re not just leaving your small town; you’re ready to leave everything and everyone you know to start a new life.

You want to grow, gain a different perspective on the world, make new friends, and be adventurous in this life that’s too short, right? Well, it sounds like it will be an amazing experience, so hopefully, your answer is yes. If you can relate to this scenario, take a moment and imagine the scene.

Once the college student has arrived, they meet their roommate. The roommate is a polite and kind individual that has very positive energy. However, let’s stop and swap out the positive with the negative for this scenario: The two students got along, except when it came to chores.

One of the roommates got tired of taking out the trash and keeping their space clean, while the other roommate was lazy and didn’t care about doing chores because she never had to do them at home. They got into a conflict because the roommate that does the chores spoke up about the other roommate’s behavior.

This caused them to not see eye to eye. Both students can try to understand each other or stay silent in an attempt to not hurt the other person’s feelings. What do you do when life throws emotional challenges at you?

Here is a list of four healthy ways of dealing with conflict.

1. Stay Calm and Breathe

Remaining calm while doing breathing exercises allows anger and negative energy to diffuse. This requires an individual not to react to the situation while it’s raw. Who said this was the easiest step? It is because it requires a person to be mindful of themselves while maintaining their emotions.

Regardless, the conversation is going to be difficult, but what you can do at that moment is remind yourself that disputes are typical and are part of having a relationship with someone. Get some distance — go for a walk, leave the room or write in a journal.

Whatever you decide, try not to speak or stay in the same location where the conflict took place. According to The Conflict Expert: “This type of pause serves two purposes: (1) to help you process what you are feeling so that you don’t take your emotions out on the other person and ruin any bridges you have built and; (2) it gives you time to think clearly about what you will do to resolve the conflict. In short, it puts distance between your emotions and your actions.

“Doing so will allow you to think of the situation independently and, hopefully, find a solution. This tip might not come to mind during the situation because it’s still something you’re learning, so take it easy on yourself.”

2. Learn To Understand People’s Energy

What is energy? According to Dorothy Walker, a TED speaker, “Energy is personal feelings, moods and attitudes. Depending on who we are around, our moods can shift. For instance, if you are not happy, try not to transfer your energy to someone else unless it’s positive energy. We all know how to read Energy because we feel when something does not feel right or when it does.

“As humans, we gravitate towards positive vibes because they feel good. To fully understand people’s energy, try to be silent for a moment and understand where the person you’re in dispute is coming from. This is a moment where you can empathize with the other person. Ask yourself why or what made them feel or think the way they did. In a situation like this, some people would be silent and give the other person space to deal with their own emotions. However, you choose to understand when you care about someone and know them.”

3. Respond, not React

When you reply, be mindful of what you say. Learning to manage your emotions is a skill, as most people act first without thinking — or to be more specific, react. When responding to a dispute, a person thinks about their thoughts. However, when reacting, a person doesn’t think and their words can be ugly. Never jump into an argument because it will only make things worse.

Learning to listen is vital when having difficult conversations because it allows you to see the other person’s perspective instead of just your own. Sometimes, the other person might not want to talk, so it is essential to give them room and let them come to you when they are ready. Never take things personally and always try to appropriately express your feelings.

4. Make an Agreement

The agreement must be something mutual. When you are overwhelmed with emotion, communicate with the other person. Taking a break while agreeing to come back to discuss the issue later is key. Walker explains in her speech how important it is to diffuse and move forward. She advised that people learn to move collaboratively and ask neutral questions.

The key tips from her speech are to “observe, listen, and ask questions.” Only do this when you have at least allowed yourself to calm down. Once you are calm, then it is the appropriate time to talk. When conversing with the other person, both must agree on the same solution moving forward so that neither will have to deal with it again.

This list is short and might not solve all the problems that a person would run into in times of conflict. However, it is a starting point that will allow anyone to further their learning if they so desire. When in a dispute, we must remember that these disagreements are normal and are an opportunity to learn.

Situations like this allow a person to deal with difficult conversations with friends, roommates, coworkers and managers. In addition to that, a person must keep in mind the location of the situation and the time.

Writer Profile

Amandine Shadia

The University of Arizona Global Campus
Journalim and Mass Communication

Amandine Shadia is a courageous writer who loves to educate herself about many topics. Shadia can take on both bad or good that comes in her life. She is a senior at The University of Arizona Global Campus.

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