Some Helpful Tips on Resolving Conflict

It seems there are those that are worried in their relationship when they face conflict.  Is conflict bad?  I guess it depends on how each of you face conflict in your relationship and how it is dealt with.

One of the things I have learned is that there are five different conflict styles (Pace, 1983).  Each conflict style has its pro’s and con’s and we can find ourselves using each one in different scenarios.  However, more often then not, we flow in one more than any other.  These conflict styles are as follows, with a brief description of each:

  1. Avoider – this is when the problem is ignored for any reason.  One of the words often found with this group is “Nothing.”  The person will say this in order to steer clear of any confrontation due to some internal and external triggers.
  2. Accommodator – this strategy is used to placate the other person involved as to ensure the relationship stays in tact.  The people usually use words like “Yes, dear” in order to appease the other person.
  3. Compromiser – is characterized by someone trying to make a win-win scenario out of any conflict.  The word often overheard with these people is “Compromise.”
  4. Competitor – this group knows there are two types of people and they want to be indentified as a winner, not a loser.  The word often overheard with this group is “Why” and this is because they want to know the other person’s reasoning so they can tear it apart in order to win the fight.
  5. Collaborator – wants both parties to walk away satisfy with the result of the conflict.  The word often heard from this group is “Research.”  They want to research and discover all the options before coming to a conclusion that way both feel heard and understood.  Together, they come to a conclusion about the conflict.

Now, as we read through this list I want to point out one thing.  No one is born a Collaborator; this is something that comes with practice.  We all want (and I hope desire) to be a Collaborator; however, we usually will find ourselves in one of the other categories.

As we come up against conflict in our relationships, I feel its important to remember that conflict is a good thing.  It teaches us where we need to grow in order to love and support each other better.  Here are some tips on how to deal with conflict better in your relationship.

  1. Do not use words like “never” and “always” – this is not true, no matter how much you might want it to be to prove a point.
  2. Use statements like “When you do [fill in the blank]…I feel [fill in the blank]…”  This takes away the defensive mechanism in the other and allows them to really hear what and/or how you are feeling.
  3. Respond to the other person using empathic reflective responses – showing them you listened.  This is done by saying something like, “What I hear you saying is when I do [what they mentioned] it makes you feel [what they mentioned]. Is this right?”
  4. After each of you listens to the other person, try to come to a mutual resolution.  This is where each will have to give and take, so just know that going into it.

References:

Pace, R. W. (1983). Organizational communication. Englewood, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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