Conflict has always been extremely frightening to me. My instinct was to avoid it, hoping the problem would “just go away.” I could not imagine facing the difficulty head on, I just did not have the skills. I preferred living in hell, torturing myself with “I should have saids,” and “I wish I hadn’ts,” to finding the courage to talk directly with the person.
I have overcome this avoidance behavior through intensive work in rebuilding my ability to value myself without reference to anyone or anything else. Until I had this firm footing, conflict with another threatened devastating effects on my inner security.
Today I follow these steps to address a conflict. The process brings me peace no matter how the other person responds.
Inner Work First
1. Get clear about:
- How I feel – identify the feelings.
- What I was reacting to – the behavior/situation/activity that my feelings arose from.
- That I am responsible for my reaction, no matter how “bad” the other person’s behavior.
2. Look at my part in the situation – can I admit to myself the role I played?
3. Decide if I need to make amends for my part.
4. Determine what I want to say to the person to express myself.
5. Explore my motives for saying it.
6. Practice expressing my feelings with a trusted friend or write them down before communicating with the person I’ve had the conflict with.
Working with the Other Person
1. Come from a place of clear intention and good will.
2. Express my feelings clearly, factually, and with no blame for the other person.
- To do this, use “I” statements so that I stay in my perspective and to reduce temptation to comment on the other person’s intentions, motivations, behavior, or attitudes.
3. Admit my part in the conflict and make amends if I’ve decided that’s important for me.
4. Ask for what I’d like/need from the other person to feel resolved now, or to deal with a similar situation in the future with that person.
5. Stay detached from the other person’s response (good or bad).
6. Stay centered in my good intentions.
7. Let go of the outcome.
If I don’t feel safe bringing up the topic with the person, or that I won’t be able to do it calmly, I have choices. I can wait until I am ready, or I can choose an alternative mode of communication, such as writing a letter or e-mail. This gives me time and distance to gather my thoughts and express them more clearly than if being in the person’s presence will throw me off track.
What I’ve found for myself is that this process gives me relief and a feeling of freedom. In taking these steps, I am able to know that I’ve done all I can to attempt resolution of the conflict. I can’t control how the other person will respond, and that’s ok. I find that when I am motivated to speak from my own perspective and feelings, with no blame for the other person, I can release the negative feelings no matter how the other person responds.
How do you resolve conflict?