Three "Do This Not That" to Approach Conflict

Most of my life was spent being conflict-averse. I hated the thought of hurting anyone's feelings, and dreaded any type of heated emotion. Fast forward to my forties, and I had a serious case of self-abandonment from not speaking out. I had betrayed myself by not sharing when my feelings were hurt, by being pleasant just to keep the peace, and by valuing other people's time and feelings more than my own.

What I discovered, through forcing myself to voice my opinion, is that addressing conflict...

  • doesn't have to have heated emotions
  • can bring about positive solutions
  • can be a source of healing as opposed to hurting

Here are three ways to get the best results out of conflict:

  • Do keep your emotions in check. Don't take things personally. Angry, frustrated, hurt, or irritated people can say and do things that aren't nice. This has nothing to do with you. Reacting defensively will only cause more tension. Let others own their own feelings; you don't need to take them on.
  • Do speak about your feelings, needs, and experiences, not about what others have or haven't done. Don't blame others. Everyone is human. Everyone makes mistakes...but not everyone is capable of acknowledging this. There are always at least two sides to every story. Listening and acknowledging additional points of view empowers others to listen and acknowledge yours.
  • Do look for team solutions. Don't focus on problems. No one wants to dwell on the negative. Keep the focus on problem-solving not people-changing to minimize defensiveness. It's all about solutions not venting all of your grievances. Let that stuff go.

The purpose of conflict is to create empathy and awareness about how actions effect others and how viewpoints differ; the ultimate outcome is to embrace solutions. Keeping that the focus of the conversation is key. We often expect others to intuitively understand how we feel, but that's often not the case. People are focusing on their own needs and often unaware of any conflict. One of the best ways to enter into a conversation is to come prepared with suggestions or solutions.

Dr. Nancy Williams is a musician, educator, and leadership coach who's mission is to inspire awareness and empowerment so that others can be agents of positive change in the world.

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