Ten tips to resolve or work through disputes

Posted on: 28th January 2014

Thanks to Phil for this blog.

Over the New Year & Christmas holidays, friction between family members or friends can easily get out of hand. Pressures of finance, health, long-standing personal issues between people, or any number of other problems that are managed normally during the rest of the year, can get out of hand and still be ongoing weeks later.

Once you find yourself in this situation however, blaming a conflict on someone or something else doesn’t help. In fact, it’s likely to worsen the situation, and unless you actually want to stop speaking to the friend or family member, it should be avoided. Below is a list of things you can do to help lessen the impact of an argument, and to aim for resolution of the dispute, whatever time of year it happens.

1. Before adding further flames to the fire, stop for a moment & take a few deep breaths. Do an internal check, that your own hunger/pain/tiredness or other issue is not clouding your thinking. If possible, address these first, before returning to the main problem. Sleep on it if you can, as this will allow space for both parties to become less emotional.

2. Zoom out for a better perspective. Imagine the conflict from someone else’s perspective. Are you directing your anger at the right person? Is it really your work (or lack of it) that is frustrating you, and you’re venting your emotions closer to home? Identify the real core issue/s, and don’t argue about the small details.

3. More personal communication happens non-verbally than through the spoken word, so it’s very important to take care of this. During conflict, even something very small like a raised eyebrow can be perceived as contempt or disbelief. Smiling is contagious, you might want it to be spreading around you?

4. Be mindful of criticising the other person’s character, or of seeing yourself as the victim. Neither of these will help you find resolution, and could make the rift longer lasting. Try to ‘own’ your statements… “I am upset about…..” rather than “you make me feel…….”, for example.

5. Show that you can take responsibility for your own actions, and make your apologies heartfelt & genuine. This is a sign of your strength of character & integrity, and is a sure way towards resolving problems, not a sign of weakness. (And it costs you… absolutely nothing).

6. Take time to understand how the other person really feels. Demonstrate this understanding of their emotions, give them time so that they feel listened to. You don’t have to agree with them on anything, just show that you understand ‘where they’re at’.

7. After listening carefully, you will be able to look for ‘win-win’ solutions, or a compromise that both parties can be satisfied with. Once you begin this route, you may find that both of you can get creative with solutions acceptable to you both & to get on with each other better.

8. Concentrate on what you can actually & readily do, when looking for solutions. Control what you can control, and let the rest go. If the other person does not live up to their words, while you have done your best to resolve things, be empowered to change the boundaries of the relationship for yourself.

9. “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies” is a beautiful quote from Nelson Mandela, which illustrates the effect of harbouring negative emotions. Let them go before they spiral into dominating your thinking patterns & feeling unhappy all day.

10. Forgiving is not easy, but make it easy for yourself, by being grateful for an opportunity to become a wiser person. No one person is even close to perfect, & never has been. Improvements can be made by everyone, and ‘the impossible’ is just an opinion. Nothing in the future can be a fact already, so learn to welcome change too.

Back when I was a young man, I would sometimes think, ‘fighting fire with fire’ was the right option. However, you can see the weakness in the argument… Fighting fire is best done using water, or by quickly depriving the fire of any fuel or oxygen. Obvious really. Please share this or better still, share by using it as a way to rise above your problems & avoiding them with others.



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