Face Up to Conflict With Grace
Conflict is a normal interaction between living beings, including all humans. All people find themselves in conflict with others sometimes, even the best of friends, most amorous lovers, closest families, and the most cordial of business associates. Conflict needn’t be devastating, good outcomes depend upon everyone feeling as if they have been heard.
Conflict is usually defined as a disagreement in which at least one party perceives a threat to his or her well-being, their needs, or their interests. If we feel threatened, it’s tough to remain peaceful and open to new ideas. But with a little practice, you can teach yourself to set aside the fight or flight instinct and enjoy the opportunity to embrace positive change.
Try these tips for keeping an open mind when trying to resolve sensitive issues.
1. When conflict arises, get control of your feelings before you engage in discussion. You can’t hear anyone, or know what you think if you’re ears are flaming red and steam comes out from under your collar.
2. Gather your thoughts. Do a few Yoga breaths or some belly breathing to calm yourself and center the feelings you have surrounding the issue.
3. Carefully choose your battles and your priorities. Don’t dive in and fight about everything that ever happened between you, you won’t be able to take in real information. Decide what really matter to you and be willing, no, be eager to understand how the other person sees things.
4. Practice reflective listening. When the other person speaks, be quiet, clear impulsive replies from your mind, and take in, without judging, what is said to you. Then repeat it in your words, beginning with, “I think you said…” and ending with, “Did I hear that correctly?”
5. Count two beats before responding to anything. That brief time allows you to digest what was said to you. Again, eliminating those programmed, quickly hurled, automatic responses leaves room for you to understand another point of view.
6. Try to remain centered on facts and real feelings. In your mind, filter out what your opponent says that’s simply geared toward pushing your buttons.
7. Force yourself to reach out for the other person’s perspective. For a moment, actively block your own thoughts and look forward eagerly to hearing a new slant on things.
8. Allow all ideas to have merit. You needn’t agree with everything anyone says, but if you don’t hear them, you’ll miss opportunities to grow and learn. Whether you’re arguing with your lover or resolving issues in a staff meeting, reserve plenty of time for all parties to say what they have on their minds.
9. Dump the idea that the only right point of view is your own. If you’re willing to just consider another way of thinking, you might find something exciting coming your way.
10. Welcome diversity and teach yourself not to fear conflict. Some of the most important advances in our society have risen from conflict.
For normal, healthy people, fighting isn’t fun. We engage in conflict so that we can establish boundaries, rules, and customs. If you welcome an exchange of ideas without feeling threatened, and respect the diversity that makes us all valuable contributors, your open-minded attitude may help you learn new things and sometimes bring others around to your way of thinking.