Conflict Resolution

Conflicts are inevitable in any and every relationship, but they do not have to lead to violence.  Unfortunately, many teens are caught up in the belief that the only way to resolve a disagreement without losing face is to fight.  Some think that avoiding a fight is a sign of weakness.  Others do not know how to control themselves when they perceive a threat.  Fortunately, when one learns conflict resolution skills, they realize that disagreements don’t have to be avoided, and when applied, can actually help strengthen a relationship. 

Unhealthy Reactions to Conflict
  • Responding in an explosive, irritated, cruel, or resentful way
  • Holding a grudge
  • Expecting a bad outcome
  • Fearing and avoiding conflicts 
Healthy Reactions to Conflict 
  • Recognizing and responding to central concerns
  • A willingness to forgive and forget
  • Seeking compromise
  • Believing that both parties can benefit from resolving the conflict 
Key Conflict Resolution Skills
Manage Your Stress
  • It is important to avoid panicking in tense situations.  If you are not in control of yourself, your emotions might get out of hand.  The quickest way to relieve stress is to focus on your sensory experience in the here and now—what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch—and take deep breaths. 
Recognize and Feel Your Emotions
  • Become aware of your emotions in tense situations and allow yourself to feel anger, sadness, fear, etc. without judgment.  But, once you recognize these feelings, focus on finding a solution to the conflict that is rational and relaxed.  This will allow you to effectively communicate how and why you are experiencing such strong emotions surrounding the circumstances. 
Be an Active Listener
  • Pay attention when the other person is speaking and identify what his/her reason is for being upset.  Then, repeat back what you heard to be sure you understood him/her clearly.  Ask questions to avoid making assumptions and express appreciation for his/her communication, even if you disagree with what he/she said.
 ​Pay Attention to Nonverbal Communication
  • Our eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, posture, and gestures convey vital information during disagreements.  It is important that we are aware of the signals we are sending, even when we aren’t speaking words.  When in conflict with someone else, being able to read his/her nonverbal cues is essential to figure out how he/she really feels about the situation.  This awareness helps us to respond in a respectful way so that trust can be built. 

Conflict Resolution Steps
  1. Agree that both parties are willing to talk about the problem and set rules (i.e. no name-calling, blaming, yelling, etc.). 
  2. Listen to all perspectives, without interruptions.  Then, ask clarifying questions and take turns repeating back what each participant shared. 
  3. Discuss the importance of the issues at hand and why each person feels strongly about them.  Notice any common interests on which both parties agree. 
  4. Brainstorm possible solutions that both parties can feel good about without committing to something. 
  5. Evaluate the proposed options to negotiate a compromise. 
  6. State an agreement and write it down if necessary.  Revisit the agreement to check progress. 

References

Conflict Resolution Skills. (2016). Counseling and Resource Center. Lynnwood, WA: Edmonds Community College. <www.edcc.edu/counseling/documents/Conflict.pdf>.
 
National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center. (2002). Facts for Teens: Conflict Resolution. Rockville, MD: Safe Youth. <https://web.njit.edu/~lipuma/Conflict.pdf>.