How to Handle Conflict Gracefully

How hard is it for you to handle conflict? Maybe you are fighting with someone, witnessing a brawl, or need to tell someone that they’ve upset you – regardless of which it is, the situation makes your palms sweat, your stomach hurt, or you voice crack.

These are all normal reactions, as most conflicts are uncomfortable, anxiety-filled situations. However, there are some tricks and tips that can keep you focused and calm during a conflict. The calmer you are, the better you are positioned to defend yourself, reach an agreement, or solve a problem.

Look at your goals; maybe there are some you have made that you still need to pursue. Is there something you really want, or want to see change, that hasn’t been finished because you’re afraid of the conflict involved? If so, keep those things that are worth fighting for at the front of your mind. Don’t let yourself say, “Oh, I’ll get what I want some other day.” You can achieve it today, with a little push and determination. Can you make a list of those important goals now?

Now that you know which goals you are going to pursue, let’s review the skills you need to achieve them. What are those skills?

Making the right questions:

Don’t try to read anyone’s mind. It may seem scary to think you are going to interrupt someone by saying, “What did you mean by….?” However, asking for clarification is the best way to not only smooth the situation, but also to give you a sense of power and control. Otherwise, it is one sided –you listen, and the other person rants. It may also make you feel better, to learn that someone didn’t mean it the way they said it.

Be clear about your right to pursue your goal

Try to think of it as “negotiation,” not “conflict.” When you think of it this way, you tell yourself that you have a stake in the outcome, and thus, you have a right to have your ideas heard, and your needs expressed. Again, telling yourself you have rights and a voice is a great way to make you feel empowered.

Develop a thick skin

If you feel oppressed, ridiculed, or abused in any way, it’s important to take a step back, ask for a breather or a moment alone. Think carefully about the situation, and ask yourself whether you are overreacting, or whether there is more to it. If you consider that there are some indications of emotional abuse included in the tug of war of the negotiation, ask yourself: Is it worth the price if I get what I want? Can I take this way of talking to me as only a trick to get me back off, and ignore it? If you can't take a bit of pressure from the other side, the other side will know where to pressure you to give in! Smile and keep asking for what you want loud and clear.

Everybody wins

Remember that the idea of conflict is communication –not control. When you are confronted about your behavior, or you confront someone else, the point is not for someone to be the “winner” or the one with more power. The point is merely to have problems addressed and hopefully worked out. Whether those problems are fully solved or not, you should still walk away feeling respect towards the other person, and in turn, respected by them. So, avoid humiliating or attacking the other side, keep acting respectful and gracious, and say: "No need here to leave with the shorter end of the stick...I want for us two to get a solution we both agree on"

Sometimes taking this perspective is well received by the other side; sometimes is not, and you can be seen as a wimp...People sometimes believe that "winning" is humiliating and destroying the other side; so here and now you are teaching the other side a lesson on reciprocal respect. If no appellation works, and the other side is bent on total war and humiliation, then is time to walk out and decide that getting what you want is not worth the price of being humiliated. Walk away saying: "This is not the way I wish for us to deal with each other. Perhaps next time you can listen to what I want and talk to me with respect. I will be waiting"

NoraNora Femenia is a well known coach, conflict solver and trainer, and CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc. Visit her blog and signup free to be connected to her innovative conflict solutions, positive suggestions and life-changing coaching sessions, along with blog updates, news, and more!

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