Are you resolving to improve your relationships in the new year?
Perhaps you’re heading into 2022 with lingering disputes hanging over your head. No matter how you feel about conflict 😭 😤 😠 — you can take action to address it.
With the arrival of the new year around the corner, here are 5️⃣ steps to tackle conflict resolution head-on.
1. Cool off before you engage.
In situations where the wounds are fresh, so to speak, it’s vital to step away from the conflict until both (or all) parties are ready to talk.
This is different from conflict avoidance 🛑: where you say things like “I don’t want to talk about it”. Instead, you’re simply punting on having a conversation 🗣 until your emotions have cooled.
Physically removing yourself from the site of conflict can be a huge help. Head out on a walk 🚶♀️, bike ride 🚴🏻♀️, or drive 🏎 to put some distance between yourself and the situation. Even better, go out in nature 🍃. The “sweet spot” for destressing in a natural setting is 20-30 minutes, research shows.
The lesson: Step away from the conflict until you are ready to open yourself up to conversation. Pausing in nature — or even for a minute of deep breathing — can help.
2. Set aside a distraction-free space.
Conflict is uncomfortable, which is why so many people avoid it. (“I don’t want to talk about it.”)
Part of the uncomfortability comes from the fear that you’ll seem unlikeable if you are honest about your feelings. But honesty itself can be discomfiting if you aren’t ok with being vulnerable.
Your goal should be to create a space 🧘🏻♂️ where vulnerability is possible. That means the setting for your conversation should be calm 😌 and quiet 🤫, and ideally free from listeners or interference.
Digital spaces work, too — such as an illumy voice or video call. Take the call on your phone or PC, using headphones 🎧 for maximum privacy.
The lesson: Seek to create a physical or digital space where vulnerability and honesty can happen.
3. Listen twice, speak once.
They say there’s a reason why we have two ears 👂👂 and one mouth 👄: you should always be prepared to listen at least twice as much as you talk.
Never is this more true than in tackling conflict, when misunderstandings can prolong a resolution.
You shouldn’t even be prepared to talk that much when addressing conflict, leadership coach Joel Garfinkle writes in the Harvard Business Review.
“Instead, focus on listening, reflecting, observing … [and] asking neutral, supportive questions,” he says. (“Tell me about the challenges you’re facing” is an example of a supportive question.)
Thoughtful questions 🧠 get to the heart of how the other party or parties are feeling. The better you understand each other, the faster 💨 you’ll find your way to a resolution.
The lesson: Ask good questions, and listen much more than you speak.
4. Affirm what the other person is saying.
Affirmation doesn’t mean agreement ❌. In this context, it means mirroring what you are hearing 🌜🌛 by repeating back each other’s words.
In other words: say “What I think you are saying is ‘x’…” to confirm that you’re picking up what the other person is putting down.
“If the person you are talking with seems to not be picking up on what you are saying, ask them to repeat their understanding of what you’ve shared,” leadership coach Garfinkle suggests.
Acknowledging your issues via affirmation will show where the conflict arose in the first place. As you home in on what’s driving the conflict, you can begin to think about shaping a resolution 🤝.
The lesson: Move slowly through addressing the conflict. Affirm your understanding of the situation.
5. Combine compromise and collaboration.
Both compromise — negotiating between parties — and collaboration — finding a solution that meets everyone’s needs — are essential to resolving conflict, two researchers write in a 2013 study.
The key is in balancing the two ⚖️ and remaining open-minded. This is where listening is so important. Only by really hearing what the other party/parties feel, and what they value, will you be able to reach a mutually agreeable solution 😄.
As a final step, some experts recommend a reflection phase where you create a plan to follow up on the conflict: a week, two weeks, or a month down the road.
Regular check-ins 🔜 will keep the conflict from bubbling back up. They also open a new line of communication between yourself and the other party/parties.
The lesson: Clearly lay out everyone’s needs moving forward and make a plan for addressing them 📃 (compromising as needed). Plan for a check-in to make sure your progress remains intact.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.