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31 Must-Knows to Resolve Conflict, Cut the Drama & Handle Your Emotions

We may love watching drama unfold, but no one wants to be involved in an actual conflict. Here’s how to resolve conflict if you happen to get yourself in some drama matters.

how to handle and resolve conflict

Conflict is going to occur whether you like it or not. You can try to avoid conflict as much as you like, but sometimes you have no other choice but to be in it. And knowing how to resolve conflict is an important skill to learn in life.

Now, you’re probably thinking conflict is a bad thing, but it’s not. It’s just two *or more* opposing ideas. Does this mean there’s going to be a war? No. It just means that you don’t agree with the other person.

Now, if you handle the situation correctly, you may not be able to solve it, but you’ll be able to calm down the situation and come to some compromise. [Read: Compromise in a relationship: Ways to give & not feel like you lost]

The Science of Conflict Resolution

Ever pondered what goes on in the minds of those who excel at resolving conflicts, like diplomats or top CEOs? It’s a blend of psychological savvy and strategic thinking that turns heated debates into handshakes.

Understanding this from a psychological standpoint not only adds depth to our comprehension of conflict resolution but also equips us with tools to navigate our own skirmishes, be they at home, work, or in our social circles. [Read: 27 fun ways to make new friends & mistakes to avoid + the best social apps]

At the center of conflict, there’s often a complex mix of cognitive and emotional elements. Our brains process information and perceptions in ways that can either fuel or douse the flames of disagreement. For instance, cognitive biases like believing only what supports our viewpoint can escalate conflicts.

Emotionally, conflicts stir up a cocktail of feelings – anger, frustration, even sadness. These emotions can cloud our judgment, yet they also hold the key to resolution.

Studies show that emotional intelligence – the ability to understand and manage emotions – is a game-changer in conflict resolution. This insight isn’t just academic; it’s a practical tool for anyone wondering how to resolve conflict effectively.

Empathy is another star player in this arena. It’s like a secret weapon that lets us see the world through another’s eyes, understanding their feelings and viewpoints without necessarily agreeing. Empathy is what transforms a standoff into a dialogue, enabling us to navigate the choppy waters of disagreement with a sense of shared humanity.

Delving into psychological theories offers even more clarity. Take Transactional Analysis *TA*, which looks at how our interactions can misfire when we communicate from different ego states – like the critical Parent or the impulsive Child. [Read: Overprotective & controlling parents: 28 signs, effects & how to deal with them]

Effective conflict resolution, however, flourishes when we operate from the Adult state, characterized by rational and respectful communication. Then there’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy *CBT*, a staple in therapeutic settings, which is also a treasure trove for resolving conflicts.

CBT encourages us to challenge distorted thinking patterns that often throw fuel on the conflict fire. By adopting a more balanced perspective, we can approach disagreements more constructively.

Self-Assessment and Emotional Regulation

Before we actually talk about how to tackle conflict resolution, let’s take a step back and check on ourselves first. [Read: 25 Honest, Self-Reflection Questions to Recognize The Real YOU Inside]

Yep, it’s all about getting a clear picture of where you stand emotionally and mentally. This step is super important to make sure you’re in the best possible state of mind to handle whatever the conflict throws your way.

1. The Mirror of Self-Awareness

Being aware of your own feelings, thoughts, and behaviors is the first step in conflict resolution. It’s about understanding your role in the conflict and how your actions and reactions might be contributing to it. Self-reflection is vital because it helps you approach the situation objectively, making it easier to find a middle ground.

2. Riding the Emotional Waves with Mindfulness

Mindfulness involves being present at the moment and acknowledging your emotions without judgment. Practicing mindfulness allows you to recognize your feelings, understand why they’re surfacing, and prevents you from being overwhelmed by them.

3. The Balancing Act of Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation isn’t about turning off your feelings, but rather learning how to control their intensity.

Techniques like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation can be incredibly helpful in moments of high stress. They work to reduce your stress levels and help you find a sense of calm, which in turn allows for clearer thinking and more measured responses instead of impulsive reactions.

4. Being Aware of Your Personal Triggers

We all have certain things that can quickly set us off emotionally. Identifying these triggers, whether they’re specific words, tones, or actions, is also important. [Read: 22 secrets to stop being so angry, calm your mind & stop hurting yourself]

Knowing what provokes a strong emotional reaction in you enables you to develop strategies to control these responses. If you’re aware of what typically sets you off – maybe it’s a certain tone or a specific word – you can prepare yourself to handle it better. This way, you’re less likely to get upset unexpectedly, which keeps the conversation smooth and focused on the real issues at hand.

5. Practicing the Art of Self-Regulation

Improving your emotional regulation skills takes practice, much like any other skill. Engaging in regular activities such as journaling, meditation, or physical exercise can significantly enhance your ability to manage your emotions.

Developing these habits serves a dual purpose: they not only prepare you for more effective conflict resolution but also contribute to better overall emotional health.

How to Resolve Conflict and Cut the Drama

Consider a common scenario: Two roommates clash over plans for the weekend. One wants the apartment for a get-together with friends, while the other has already made plans to host an out-of-town guest. This is a classic case where a small misunderstanding could escalate into a major conflict, primarily due to a lack of clear communication. [Read: 42 secrets to communicate better in a relationship & ways to fix a lack of it]

In this situation, the roommate with the visiting friend hasn’t expressed their frustration. They might make a light-hearted comment or decide to vent over drinks with a friend instead of addressing the issue directly. This avoidance might seem like a temporary fix, but it only sets the stage for a larger conflict down the line. Awkward as it may be, addressing the issue head-on is essential.

Such everyday scenarios highlight the importance of learning how to resolve conflict. It’s about facing the problem, even when it’s uncomfortable, to prevent a small misunderstanding from snowballing into a major dispute.

1. Take a Breath

Cool down, it’s going to be okay. First and foremost, take a breath and just chill out. Arguing is stressful and you won’t be able to think properly when you’re in rage mode. So, try to get yourself to calm down and think rationally. [Read: Power struggles in a relationship: Signs & ways to overcome it]

2. Try to See the Problem in a Bird’s Eye View

This isn’t going to be easy, especially when you’re mad. Try to look at the situation objectively. You may not have thought you did anything wrong, but how would you feel if it happened to you?

3. Sit Down With the Person *When You Both Cooled Off*

Do not sit down with the person when you both look like you’re going to stab each other. We know problems should be solved sooner than later, but it’s okay to give a couple hours or even a couple days in between when you had your fight and when you sit down to talk. [Read: Hacks for ways to calm down and put the crazy away]

4. Describe the Problem in the Least Amount of Words

No one wants to hear a monologue of what happened, it’s dull. Keep your problem concise and to the point. If your partner came home drunk last night, say, “It bothers me when you come home late at night drunk.” There, you said the problem, you said how it makes you feel. Now, they have to respond.

5. Let the Other Person Reply

We know you’re angry but you won’t be able to resolve this unless you let the other person speak. So, when done giving your speech, let them reply. But this part is important, don’t just let them reply for the sake of it. Actually, listen to what they say back to you.

6. Don’t Forget Nonverbal Communication

You may not notice it but when you stand at the door with your hand on your hip, listening to this person talk—you look like an asshole. Your body language is extremely important during conflict resolution.

Of course, you don’t want to be curled up, giving off that victim vibe, but you don’t want to look defensive. Try to maintain a natural and neutral posture without making facial expressions such as eye rolling. [Read: 23 dos and don’ts that make all the difference in a relationship argument]

7. Don’t Try to “Poke” the Person

We all know what makes someone we love really pissed off, but that’s not the ideal step in knowing how to resolve conflict with someone you care about.

But, that doesn’t solve anything. You’re not trying to get the upper hand by putting them down, you’re trying to solve the problem. Leave your punches for a boxing class.

8. Ask Questions and Get Answers

If you want to understand where this person is coming from, ask questions. Of course, don’t ask questions that carry this accusatory vibe. Ask simple questions such as who, what, when, where, how. See, it’s easy.

That way, you get to see the complete story from their side. Notice that we didn’t tell you to ask why? Because ‘why’ usually is an accusatory question. You’re trying to resolve the conflict not start another one. [Read: Playing victim: 37 signs & reasons why it makes your life way worse]

9. If You Have Many Issues, Focus on One at a Time

Maybe you guys had a blow up after a pile of issues were thrown on top of each other. Which is exactly what happens when you don’t communicate properly. Are you now seeing the importance of communication?

So, instead of yelling at each other and pointing out all the things they did wrong, focus on one issue. Do not bring up the other issues until you solved the one you’re currently talking about.

10. Own Up to the Things That You F*cked Up

You probably could have handled some part of the situation a lot better. Maybe you stormed off when you didn’t get your way, and of course, that created a scene. You have to own up to the things that you acted poorly on. And there are things that you did, remember that. Don’t play the victim.

11. Do You Both Agree on Certain Things?

At the end of the discussion, there are probably certain aspects of the situation that you two both agree on—which is great. This means there are parts of the situation that you both understand and agree on. Use those as the connecting factor between you two. [Read: Mature ways to grow up and behave like an adult]

12. Make Room for Compromise

We know you probably want the whole situation to go your way but I’m sorry to tell you that it probably won’t—unless they’re really in the wrong. But most likely, you’re going to need to compromise.

Does your boyfriend need the car tomorrow? We know you have to go visit your family but maybe he can drop you off instead. Is this an ideal situation for you, probably not, but you have to compromise.

13. Try to Make a Plan Together to Fix the Problem

So, you talked about how you feel, they talked about how they feel. If you want to know how to resolve conflict, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to solve the problem.

Is there something that you need to do? Maybe you’re tired of always being the one to clean the house, but when you tell them to do it, you go ahead and clean anyway. Instead, stick to your word. There’s always a solution to a conflict.

14. Don’t Use Passive Behavior

Sometimes, we can’t help but be passive aggressive. We slam our doors, we reply to that person like an asshole. Of course, those do not do the situation any good. But really, passive people don’t actually solve any problems, they just add more fuel to the fire.

So, work on communicating in a direct way. Let this person know how you feel by saying, “I feel” not “you’re a dumbass.” [Read: How to stop being passive aggressive & get out of the toxic state of mind]

15. Use “I” Statements

Speaking of, when expressing how you feel or what you need, use “I” statements. For example, “I feel frustrated when…” instead of “You make me frustrated…” Doing this reduces defensiveness and keeps the conversation centered on feelings and needs rather than blame.

16. Reflect on the Impact

After discussing the problem, take a moment to reflect on how the conflict has impacted both of you. This isn’t about pointing fingers but understanding the consequences of the disagreement. By acknowledging the impact, you open a pathway for empathy and deeper understanding.

17. Identify Common Goals

Amidst the conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of what you both ultimately want. Identifying common goals can be a unifying step. It shifts the focus from opposing positions to shared objectives, paving the way for collaborative problem-solving.

18. Establish Boundaries

Clearly define what behaviors or actions are unacceptable to you. Establishing boundaries is crucial for mutual respect and understanding. It’s about knowing where you draw the line and communicating it effectively, which can prevent future conflicts. [Read: 23 secrets to set personal boundaries & guide others to respect them]

19. Follow-Up and Check-In

Resolving conflict doesn’t end with the conversation. Schedule a time to check in with each other to see how things are progressing. Doing this demonstrates commitment to the resolution and ensures that any agreed-upon changes or solutions are being implemented.

20. Move On

Listen, you might have more conflicts in the future, maybe not with this person, but it’ll be with someone else. You must learn to let things go.

You sat down with this person, you talked about your feelings, you guys even came to an agreement. Now what? There’s nothing to hold a grudge against, you solved the problem. It’s over, move forward. [Read: Relationship arguments: 38 tips & ways to fight fair & grow closer in love]

When to Seek External Help

Ideally, most conflicts can be navigated and resolved using the steps outlined above. However, certain situations may escalate beyond our control or expertise, requiring external assistance

Knowing when to seek professional help is also a crucial step in learning how to resolve conflict, especially when the stakes are high or emotions run too deep.

1. Persistent Deadlock

If repeated attempts at resolution lead nowhere and the same issues keep resurfacing, it’s a clear sign that external help is needed. A mediator or counselor can provide a fresh perspective and facilitate a more productive dialogue.

2. Intense Emotional Reactions

When conflicts trigger overwhelming emotions like rage, anxiety, or despair, which hinder constructive communication, professional intervention can be beneficial. A counselor can help manage these intense emotions and create a safe space for dialogue.

3. Impact on Mental or Physical Health

If the conflict is taking a toll on your mental or physical health, causing stress, sleeplessness, or affecting your daily functioning, it’s time to seek help. A professional can address these health concerns while aiding in conflict resolution. [Read: Why we need to break down the stigma of mental illness]

4. Complex Issues

Some conflicts involve intricate issues like legal matters, deep-seated family problems, or workplace disputes that require specialized knowledge.

In such cases, a mediator or counselor with expertise in the relevant area can guide the resolution process more effectively.

5. When Safety is a Concern

If there’s any threat of physical or emotional harm, professional intervention is crucial. Safety should always be the priority, and a trained professional can ensure that the resolution process is safe for all parties involved.

6. Choosing the Right Professional

Look for mediators or counselors with credentials and experience relevant to your conflict. Recommendations from trusted sources, online reviews, and professional directories can be helpful.

It’s also important to choose someone you feel comfortable with, as trust and rapport are key to effective conflict resolution

Who Wants to Live in a Constant State of Discord, Anyway?

Dealing with conflict isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a good time. In an ideal world, we’d all get along seamlessly, with no disagreements or clashes.

But reality is a bit more complex. We all have different beliefs, values, and perspectives, which inevitably leads to conflict now and then.

[Read: Why you keep having the same fight & secrets to break the unhealthy cycle]

Wouldn’t you rather be free from conflict than stuck in the middle of it? The key to that freedom is to learn how to resolve conflict effectively. It’s about taking the initiative and addressing issues head-on before they spiral out of control. Who wants to live in a constant state of discord, anyway?

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...