Conflict Resolution

Conflict: one of our least favorite things, especially in relationships. The dream in place of it is one of peace and harmony… Is that even possible?

It depends on what kind of conflict and what conflict means to each person. Sometimes it can be huge and explosive while other times it’s that super awkward and uncomfortable tension when someone says something that makes us feel sad, upset, or uncomfortable and we have no idea what to say. Some people are used to much higher levels of conflict and see smaller arguments as trivial, while others were brought up with minimal or avoidant conflict and the first signs of discord send the nervous system into a frenzy.

Some definitions from

“- a fight, battle, or struggle, especially a prolonged struggle; strife.

– controversy; quarrel: conflicts between parties.

– discord of action, feeling, or effect; antagonism or opposition, as of interests or principles: a conflict of ideas.

– a striking together; collision.

– incompatibility or interference, as of one idea, desire, event, or activity with another: a conflict in the schedule.

– Psychiatry. a mental struggle arising from opposing demands or impulses.”

As you can see, it’s quite dependent on the situation, and can be anywhere from subtle to extreme.

How do we move past these struggles?

In any kind of relationship with a partner, friend, family member, or even coworker, I believe the process is pretty similar. It varies based on the nature of each dynamic and what is socially acceptable within that space. I didn’t grow up in an environment that modeled successful conflict resolution, so I’m still trucking along, figuring it out through trial, error, support from friends and family on the same path, and a mental health counsellor. I’m sure that it all becomes easier as time goes on, as I’ve seen many relationships in my life improve with more awareness and practice.

There are some concepts that keep coming up, and when they are successful it becomes apparent that conflict resolution is not only possible, but inevitable when the desire is there.

5 Key Points

Take a break
            Once emotions rise past the point of a functional internal state, take some time to calm your nervous system. The thoughts and feelings we have when strong emotions come up can often lead to more confusion and disconnection. One might say things they don’t mean or cause the other to feel the same feelings they are experiencing, putting both sides on edge.

We can resolve our quarrels much more easily when we remember our functional state and lead from a quiet and open mind. Once our stress levels come down, it’s much easier to figure out what the main point was that caused the conflict, and where it got out of hand. It can take as few as 5 minutes, or can be an extended to several hours or even until the next day if your body needs the time to regulate.

Things to calm ourselves when taking a break include:
Taking a walk, doing one chore, journaling, making art, sitting and breathing, cooking a meal that makes you feel good… honestly anything that calms you and helps you remember that you’re lovable and so are they.

Speak for yourself
Language can accidently be weaponized, especially when it suggests we are pointing a finger at the other person. Focusing on what the other person “always” does or has failed to do will not provide the desired results of connection and safety.

When we speak in a way that highlights OUR story, thoughts, feelings, requests, it is more easily digestible. Trading the word “you” for the word “I” or “me” wherever possible is a great place to start.
Ex: “When _(something happens)_, I feel/think ______. I value our relationship and want us to understand each other the best we can so we can find common ground.”

Listen to Understand
Not to formulate your next response, or to take their words personally, and definitely not to think about the ways they aren’t perfect and shouldn’t feel the way they do.

Listen so that you get to know the perspective of this person you care about without the fog of conditioned judgments.

Take responsibility
There are two sides to every coin. We will all have to take responsibility for our words and actions at some point. When it’s our turn, it’s not the time to explain why we did or didn’t do something that affected the other person in a negative way.

When it’s your turn, see how your part contributed to the big picture and provide validation to the other person. This is where an apology would take place, and where the other person understands that you care about their concern and in turn, that you care about them.  

Once everyone feels calm, heard, understood, and validated, there is nothing better than a smile, hug, and the stress off our backs. We can take some deep breaths of gratitude for the efforts we put into sorting out our struggles in relationship. We learned something new about ourselves and the other person, and practiced better communication skills.

We form a deeper trust and bond with others as we resolve conflict together.

To answer the original question – is a place of peace and harmony possible?

Yes, absolutely. Conflict will come up again and again, so expecting none is a surefire way for more intense conflict when it approaches, or for feelings to be overlooked in hopes of avoiding discomfort. Peace and harmony cannot exist without working through differences. With more self-awareness and conscious care for those around us, anything is possible. Learning ways to see eye-to-eye and letting go when that can’t happen creates that dreamy place within ourselves and our relationships.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts about conflict?

How do you calm yourself when things get heated?

Let’s get the conversation going, comment below!

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– Laura
Instagram: @heartcenteredholistic
Facebook: Heart Centered Holistic – Health Coaching

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