Coping with Conflict: 3 Tips for Making Tough Conversations a Little Easier

Conflict is inevitable. It is part of life and relationships, but many of us try to avoid it like the plague. Sometimes conversations turn into conflict because we don’t know how to voice our opinions. Other times conflict can arise because we let things build up and then it is only a matter of time before we blow. Conflict doesn’t have to be a bad thing and in fact can strengthen relationships when dealt with properly. Here are 3 tips to help guide difficult conversations and deal with conflict in a healthy manner.

1)    Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Stephen Covey had it right. When having a difficult conversation with someone, whether it is a partner or a boss, try to understand where they are coming from and their point of view. Practice paraphrasing, or repeating back what they are saying, to truly understand the point they are making. I wonder how many conflicts start because we don’t even fully understand what the conversation is about?

2)    Practice using “I” statements. Sometimes when dealing with touchy subject matter it can be really easy to point fingers or blame the other person. That often results in the other person going on the defensive, which accomplishes very little. Instead focus on you. How do you feel? What is going on for you? It is pretty difficult for people to get upset when the focus is on your own feelings.

3)    Walk away. Temporarily. Sometimes we get caught in a moment and our fuse has blown. How productive is it going to be to have a conversation when we are so upset we can’t think straight? Sometimes one of the best things we can do for ourselves, and the other person is to get away from the situation. There is nothing wrong in saying, “you know what, I am upset right now and need to take 20 minutes to myself. Let’s talk again when I’ve calmed down.”

Give these three simple tips a try next time you are faced with a difficult situation and see if they make it any easier to handle. If you have tips or tricks for handling conflict, I would love to hear them!


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