Many of us view conflict as negative and something to avoid. While conflicts can be tough, the fact is they are a normal part of life, and learning effective coping strategies is a necessary life skill. It can result in better relationships at work and at home, as well as fostering greater personal satisfaction.
None of us has innate conflict-resolution skills. Rather, the ability to effectively manage life’s inevitable challenges is, in large part, learned. We can build these skills in workshops and classes, through supportive friendships, and through self-study and journaling. Doing so requires honest and caring self-reflection.
Here are a few ways to get started in managing conflicts.
Begin with self-awareness and care. Create a personally affirming life space through healthy eating, adequate sleep, and exercise.
Clarify your personal needs that are threatened by a conflict. Once you do so, identify the outcome you desire.
Identify a safe place to work through the conflict. Find an appropriately private, neutral space for a discussion with the people involved. Agree to talk ahead of time so everyone can be prepared, and consider using facilitators or mediators. Develop guidelines to ensure respectful communication.
Assume a listening stance. Use active listening, seeking first to understand, then to be understood.
Assert your needs clearly and specifically. Focus on a couple of current concerns, using “I-messages.”
Approach problem-solving with flexibility. Generate options through brainstorming, while deferring judgment.
Throughout the conflict-management process, be sure to acknowledge everyone’s efforts to reach a solution. This is usually hard work, but the results can be gratifying.
Lisa Webne-Behrman, a licensed psychologist and mediator, will teach Managing Life’s Challenges: From Struggle to Satisfaction on March 14 at Madison’s Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street. The workshop is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Living Well—Today and Tomorrow, a series of courses that provide expert advice on essential life skills. Instructors include UW-Madison faculty members, leading researchers, and guest speakers who specialize in various stages of life’s journey.