Tips for Resolving Conflict

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If a challenging situation is making you feel uncomfortable, life coach Grace McMahon has some useful tips to help you resolve it…

Conflict is of course an inevitable part of life, but for many of us, conflict is anxiety-inducing!

We know that not everyone we meet is going to like us, nor are we always going to like them, but when there’s conflict in relationships with people we do like, it can be really difficult to navigate especially if you’re not one for confrontation.

Although there’s nothing wrong with avoiding confrontation, research illustrates how suppressing feelings when we disagree can be damaging to both our physical and mental wellbeing and daring to disagree is an important life skill that’s worth investing time in. So, instead of “confronting” others that we disagree with, call it conflict resolution – it puts a more positive spin on it suggesting we’ll find relief from the situation.

Think about what you want to achieve

We don’t always need to use conflict resolution or confrontation to tackle issues in our relationships – sometimes it’s just time to drift apart because the relationship has run its course, and although that doesn’t feel good, having a difficult conversation may not get us anywhere either and possibly just cause more torment for us. However, if you can see resolution, you want to fight for the relationship to come together again, or you can accept your difference and agree to disagree, then having those uncomfortable conversations might be necessary. So it’s worth considering what you want to get out of resolving conflict before setting a date to do so.

Acknowledge challenging feelings

We can’t resolve an issue with another person if we don’t first acknowledge that it exists ourselves. Acknowledging the uncomfortable emotions (anger, resentment, frustration) that disagreement brings up will enable us to work through them more easily. While we’re talking it can be a good idea to use phrases like “I feel this…” or “that behaviour made me feel…” to avoid playing the blame game. We tend to get very defensive when we feel that someone is blaming us which usually adds more fuel to the fire. By saying how certain behaviours or conversations made us feel, we’re expressing our interpretation and that gives the other person a chance to explain it from their perspective.

Plan it out

If the idea of bringing up an issue makes you feel anxious, make a plan about what to say and think through when a good time might be to bring up the issue. Planning what to say can help us make clear and concise points and help us to manage the emotions that conflict can bring to keep the conversation as amicable as we can. And if it does get heated, it’s not all bad, it shows passion and that we care, but it can be really unpleasant to sit through or deal with. Make sure you’re in a place where you both feel comfortable, avoiding areas that are public, as you don’t want to add any extra anxiety to the situation.

Resolve issues as they arise

Sitting on your feelings for a long time can lead us to hatch a big old egg of resentment. Try to be upfront with how you feel, it’s OK to disagree, but it’s not OK to scream at the person we disagree with! Disagreeing gives us an opportunity to learn more, when we find something we disagree with we can ask why, and discuss the other person’s views and opinions. We might find that a different perspective helps us grow. Be curious about disagreeing, it’ll help when it comes to expressing it calmly, too.

Take your time

Sometimes it can be helpful to take a moment to gather your thoughts, and think about how you’re feeling and reacting to a situation. Having a cooling-off period before talking can help keep our more volatile emotions in check, so you can get across what you want to say in a less anxiety-inducing way. Don’t leave it months, but taking a day or two to mull over how we’re feeling can be helpful.

Think of conflict as a creative engine

Reframe conflict as an opportunity to learn and grow. Remember some of the greatest creations were born out of conflict! You’ll need to hear out the opposing ideas here, so practice patience and listening to make the most out of your resolution. By actually listening to their side or their view, we can learn new ideas that maybe we do agree with, or at least we can make informed decisions to disagree rather than jumping to the conclusion that they’re wrong. Try not to interrupt, even if you passionately disagree, while another is talking.

By Life Coach, Grace McMahon. For further information, please visit