As much as we may try to avoid conflict, it is inevitable in our everyday lives to encounter it. At home, work, or just out and about-- there isn’t a lot we can do to fully avoid it!
However, conflict can be necessary for growth. Conflict fuels change. It signals that something needs to happen or change so both parties can move forward happier and healthier. Conflict signals that something just isn’t working, and that’s ok!
Conflict can be uncomfortable. It can feel difficult and while we would much rather take the easier way out (avoid it, ignore it, gloss over it), getting rid of conflict actually hinders us quite a bit. It can keep us stuck in a stagnant, resentful cycle of never having our needs met.
Even if a conflict ends up in a disagreement, or a fight, or a standoff-- it isn’t the end of the world. You can take the time you need and come back to the subject, perhaps even with fresh eyes.
So, how can you go about handling conflict in a healthy way
so it becomes a growth opportunity rather than a huge mess?
When a conflict happens there are a few things you can do in the moment to guide towards a peaceful ending. Keeping calm and collected, taking a step back if things get heated, ask for a pause if you need to collect your thoughts better (the ZForm can come in handy in the pre-conflict stages if it’s something you can foresee happening).
Make sure you’re listening to the other person and understanding what they’re saying as well. Oftentimes, a conflict can easily be resolved by compromise and being honest with the other person, but it isn’t always easy to see that in the moment.
But a lot of times a conflict can arise out of nowhere, and you’re left to do damage control instead.
So what can you do?
Here are 5 steps you can take right away to help resolve the conflict.
Define the source of the conflict. They say there are always three sides to a story: yours, mine, and the truth. Make sure you are doing your best to see both sides of the issue. And if you can’t, don’t feel bad about asking someone to be a mediator for the conflict. Having a non-biased third party can be a great breath of fresh air and perspective. But getting to the root of the problem will help you take steps to resolve it.
Look beyond the incident. Emotions can run away from you quickly. Perhaps resentment has been growing and has little to do with the incident that tipped the scales. Are there underlying issues?
Request solutions. How can things become better from here? What steps can you take to resolve and move forward in a positive way? Avoid blaming and finger-pointing.
Identify solutions that fit both parties. Compromise is key! What would benefit everyone the most?
Agreement. Make sure everyone is feeling good about the decision and the future. It might be a good idea to look back and think about how this could be avoided in the future (as in, talking before it escalates to a full-on conflict, setting healthy boundaries, etc).
The Thomas-Kilmann Model identifies five different approaches to resolving conflict.
Avoiding. Ignoring or sidestepping the conflict altogether.
Accommodating. Satisfying the needs of others over your own.
Compromising. Partly satisfying both sides.
Competing. Satisfying your own needs over others.
Collaborating. Finding a solution that entirely satisfies both parties.
This model sees people in two categories: assertive and cooperative. Assertive is taking action for your own needs, while cooperative is taking action to satisfy the other party’s needs. The above styles fall somewhere in the spectrum between those two categories.
When trying to figure out which style you should use, think about how important the conflict is to you and what you’re trying to solve. Sometimes, the other person cares more and you might not as much, so accommodating might work. Other times maybe not! It depends entirely on the situation and the people involved. Make sure you are articulating your own needs clearly, and actively listening to the needs of others.
“Change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” - MANDY HALE
The bottom line is that it is important to see conflict (and change) as a learning experience. It isn’t “wrong” or “bad”, but an opportunity for growth! The ZForm can act as a perfect mediator for a conflict situation!