Learn to address conflict without hurting feelings

This time of year seems to be fraught with conflicts. People have high expectations around Christmas, and are disappointed, or they have so much stress with the partying, gift giving and expenses that they unfortunately take it out on those around them.

Living and working with people is never an easy proposition, and when added stresses come into the picture, some individuals are unable to cope well. How does one deal with the difficult person? How does one go for the best for all concerned and not just go for the personal victory? It takes more than just maturity, it takes interpersonal skills and a willingness to be committed to harmony.

This doesn’t make conflict bad. Conflict is an everyday occurrence that can, if managed well, lead to greater understanding and better working and living conditions. The trick is managing conflict and not losing sight of the pursuit of equitable resolutions.

Integrative problem solving entails stating what you want out of a relationship, and describing how you feel about areas of conflict. If both people in a conflict can do that, a greater understanding of the situation is revealed. Then here’s a pivotal piece — try to argue for the other person’s perspective. Now that takes maturity. It also means that you really listened to them as they stated their wants, needs and feelings.

If you can try to step into the other person’s perspective and really see the issues from their side after they have told you what they need and how they feel, then you are on the road to developing a great working/living relationship that is built on trust, respect and understanding instead of trying to fight for your position and making it a win/lose situation.

Working together with the other person, try to come up with at least three optional agreements that maximize both individuals’ outcomes, and then choose one of those alternatives and work together on it. So often, in this society especially, we think of conflict as a bad thing. It usually is handled very badly and so people are left feeling hurt, misunderstood, used and bullied. Going for the win at the cost of the relationship is very short-sighted and immature, especially if the one with whom you are dealing is a workmate or a family member and someone that is an ongoing entity in your life. OK to go for the win in negotiating for the best price on a used car, not such a great idea to go for the win if it means that someone meaningful to you is going to have to suffer a loss.

Here are some other helpful hints to managing conflicts well.

If you can think about how you need the other person in your life and how important they are to you, and how you want to keep them happy and also keep yourself happy, you will negotiate well and come to an agreement. You can use a one-step negotiation procedure in which both parties calmly and descriptively state what they need and both parties agree that whoever has the greatest unmet need should get their way.

Abraham Lincoln stated that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Conflict should be defined as a mutual problem that can raise awareness and understanding, leading to a smoother future. Conflict should not be an opportunity to bully another person, and should not be avoided for fear of rocking the boat. Conflict is a growth opportunity if presented and dealt with in a mature and thoughtful way.

Next time someone has an issue with you, try to listen instead of getting defensive and formulating a rebuttal. Try to really hear what they are saying and try to understand. If the other is a reasonable human being and understands that you are trying to solve the problem rather than lay the blame, you will go forward with a better relationship. If the other person does not or will not negotiate maturely — go in peace. The only person’s behavior that you can truly control is your own. Have a wonderful and peaceful new year!


Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., certified nutritional adviser, can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.