Conflict happens. A disagreement with a spouse. A run-in with a neighbor. Opposing political views. Torn within your own mind and heart about what decision to make. It is an unpleasant experience and yet it is inevitable. It is when we allow conflicts to become bigger and more complicated than they need to be that we find ourselves in a bind.
Here are 8 steps:
- Breathe. When you realize you are in the midst of a conflict our brain typically tells the body it’s time to tense up and our breathing becomes short. Soften your belly. Drop your shoulders down away from your ears and take a deep full breath in. Release the breath slowly through your mouth. Ahhhh.
- Identify the conflict. There is power in naming it. What is happening? Where is the conflict’s origin? Take a step back into neutrality and just notice what’s going on.
- Own your part. If your conflict is with another person, be sure to look at how you have contributed to this conflict or caused it to escalate. Be willing to own that and if needed to sincerely apologize for your part.
- Listen and reflect. Even if you don’t agree with what you are hearing it can go a LONG way for the other person to feel heard. Listen for content and reflect back (out loud) what you hear the other person saying. Here’s an example: “So, what I’m hearing is that you really believe strongly that all children should be vaccinated and that parents who don’t vaccinate are neglecting their children’s wellbeing. Am I understanding you correctly?”
- Empathize. Even if you don’t agree with what you are hearing, seek the place where you can empathize sincerely and this will help to soften the conflict. Here’s an example, “I can hear that you feel strongly about this and I can understand that for you this feels like a really important issue. I get that.”
- Pause and breathe again. Repeat number 1.
- Respond softly and respectfully. After you have helped the other person feel heard and understood and you’ve take a breath break, it’s your turn to respond. Soften your tone and choose your words carefully.
- Agree to disagree. Not all conflicts can be resolved with compromise or direct solution. Sometimes you can simply make peace by agreeing to have opposing views and walk away peacefully.
Accepting that we will have disagreements and practicing ways to resolve conflict on a regular basis contributes to smoother sailing and a simpler life.