3 Tips for Conquering Conflict

Question: What do the Montagues and Capulets have in common with convincing a five-year old to eat her brussels sprouts? Answer: Conflict! We can all relate to this on some level, right? Whether it’s conflict with a boss, coworker, spouse, child, friend, parent, teacher, or even a next door neighbor, the fact is conflict is a part of life! We aren’t going to always see eye-to-eye with everyone. What matters is what we do (and how we react) when conflict arises.

We invite you to use this article as an opportunity to perform a self-check. How do you rate on your levels of self control, understanding, and respectfulness when conflict arises in your life? What can you do to better handle conflict with others?

Here are three tips to help you manage conflict:

  1. Respect yourself and your right to be heard. Whether it’s peer pressure, a challenge to your rights, personal safety, or position, it’s important to stand up for yourself. Sometimes, we allow others to intimidate or dominate us out of fear or insecurity. Also, certain personality types (especially the “S’s” in the DISC model) are so focused on “keeping the peace” that they risk being taken advantage of, especially by people with dominant personalities. Although conflict is uncomfortable, we must respect ourselves in the process while being respectful to the other party. Don’t ever sacrifice your well-being or comfort for the sake of someone else. You deserve to be heard just as much as the other party.
  2. Strive to be an agreeable disagreer. So often, conflicts arise from misunderstandings that could have been prevented or at least controlled. Sometimes they’re based on different philosophical views or perspectives where there isn’t a right or wrong answer. (This is especially true when it comes to talking politics. The current political climate is pretty tense, and conflict is high—both on social media and in real life.) We may want the same outcome as others with whom we disagree, but simply have different strategies to get there. Always strive for mutual understanding, while being attentive to your tone and body language, but agree to disagree if that’s the case. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Consider having a heartfelt retroactive talk about it once things have calmed, and vow to do better next time if it didn’t go as smoothly as you’d have liked. And, remember that barking, yelling, and name calling won’t change anyone’s mind, anyway. Instead, it usually emboldens.
    Finally, if you’re in a heated conversation and your emotions are bubbling, try using this phrase: “I have a different perspective.” If the other party is disrespectful after that, simply suggest a follow up conversation at another time and move on.
  3. Choose reconciliation over grudges wherever possible. We’ve all been victims of a wrong or a mistake. It causes anger, shame, resentment, depression, and worse. However, when we harbor grudges and refuse to forgive, it can be like an all-consuming cancer. Strive for reconciliation whenever possible and don’t hesitate to seek support. Holding a grudge and/or refusing to ever speak to someone again will not make you feel better—it will feel like a burden that just won’t go away.

The ability to manage conflict is a hallmark of a true leader and a symbol of integrity and maturity. What is your favorite tip for handling conflict? Do you have any life lessons from past experiences you’d like to share?

Learn to Handle Disagreements Like a Pro

With election season in full swing, we’ve all been seeing our fair share of disagreement lately. Whether it’s a politically-charged rant on Facebook (followed by the common “If so-and-so becomes president, I’m moving to Canada” threat) or a heated, televised presidential debate (and its subsequent media frenzy), disparities abound. Facebook friends fight with each other over who they believe is the best person for the job, and candidates throw insults at each other in order to be seen as the victor in the public eye. The political scene has always been divisive, with bravado and name-calling the order of the day.

Why is this? One reason is that differences are often irreconcilable due to underlying philosophies, values, and worldviews. Another reason is that most people don’t exactly handle disagreements well. They resort to verbal warfare—name calling, condescension, threats, and insults—in order to convert their opponent to their point of view (or in the case of political candidates—to marginalize their competition).  While negative campaigning often works in politics (sadly)  it’s an unhealthy recipe for life.

Let’s face it: opinions vary extremely, and most people arrive at theirs after legitimate, heartfelt thought. Often, differences are based on deep philosophical or religious views when there isn’t necessarily a right or a wrong answer. Reasonable people may agree on the goal, but differ in methods. A good example is whether government spending or tax cuts do a better job at stimulating the economy. Democrats tend to favor the former while Republicans prefer the latter. Both sides have valid points. They just have different approaches to achieving a common goal.

Politics aside, I am here you to tell you this:

Throughout life, you’ll be in situations with others who aren’t “on the same page.” It might be with a family member, friend, or work colleague. When you’re interacting with someone with whom you disagree, it’s important to be “agreeable” in your demeanor. After sharing your thoughts and genuinely listening to his or hers as well, it’s okay to “agree to disagree” if you’re unable to come to a compromise. When each party is passionate about their point-of-view, compromises aren’t always possible! Whether it’s about politics or something else, remember to avoid making it personal, and recognize that differences of opinion are a part of life. In most instances, you’re not going to change their mind anyway!

Do a self-check, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you keep your cool and a respectful attitude when you are debating with others?
  2. Are you able to separate the person from his or her belief? Are you genuinely interested in hearing his or her point of view? Do you notice the difference between the two?
  3. What is your knee-jerk reaction when someone disagrees with you?

Above all, strive to be a thoughtful, open-minded, and agreeable disagree-er. It will benefit all parties involved and help you avoid a needless war of words!

 

Parenting Teens: When Things Get Rocky

Every relationship goes through its ups and downs. For parents, the teen years provide more opportunities for conflict and stress within your household. Teenagers are processing a lot (they’re changing physically and emotionally, discovering their passions and goals, planning their future, etc.), while parents are trying to transition from control to influence. Often, a certain tension permeates the air as launch time approaches.

As our children transition toward adulthood, changing our filter from instructing to empowering should happen incrementally. We increasingly assume the role of influencer and encourager, rather than director, so our relationship and communication should adapt accordingly. Because our children and our roles are undergoing such significant transitions, it’s important to keep in mind our key relational and communication goals, especially during times of conflict! With these goals in mind, we can help keep the “fireworks” at bay and ease some of the tension that may be rising.

Here are some important musts to keep in mind:

  • Respect their desire for increasing independence and empower them to assume greater responsibility
  • Strive to build an enduring relationship based on mutual trust, respect, and understanding. We must be viewed as a safe place for them to share their dreams, hurts, challenges, and disagreements. Replace “talk to” with “share with” in your filter.
  • Promote self-discovery and responsible decision-making, even if it comes with risk. Mistakes are a necessary part of the growth process.
  • Regularly model unconditional love, even when we don’t always agree

As we seek to empower rather than control our children, certain words should govern our behavior and occupy our communication filter any time we talk with them: influence, ask, listen, invite, respect, understand, encourage, share, and inspire. These are especially helpful to keep in mind when strains and conflicts rise and when our children are making difficult decisions.

Here are some key things for all of us to remember during times of disagreement and correction:

  • Respect their point of view (even if you disagree); strive for mutual understanding
  • Strategically time your difficult conversations when all parties are calm
  • Avoid nagging, irritating, and frustrating them
  • Share your views in love. Do not be harsh or critical.
  • Keep your cool and resist the urge to fight with them
  • End with a touch, hug, and expression of love

These strategies can help take some of the sting out of your difficult conversations and help your teen understand that you are trying to empower them, not control them. While having strong communication goals are important for parenting children of any age, they’re absolutely essential when raising teens and young adults.

Consider whether your communication methods influence and empower, or direct and constrain. When tensions rise in your house, how do you handle it? Do you have any great communication strategies to share? Remember, we’re releasing eagles to soar, not kites to control!