4 Conflict Resolution Skills for Better Relationships

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Brett Cushing, MA, LMFT, Outpatient Therapist. Conflict is an inevitable part of life. We simply cannot agree with everyone all the time. While sometimes uncomfortable, conflict can be managed effectively through conflict resolution skills that provide a wonderful opportunity for growth.  

What is Conflict Resolution? 

Conflict resolution involves coming together to discuss and resolve conflicting needs. Conflict occurs when people disagree over perceptions, values, desires, or ideas. The heart of conflict entails a relational need that is unmet – whether it’s the need to feel understood, seen, safe, respected, or a need for stronger intimacy.   Within any personal relationship, if needs are being unmet and not communicated, distance, arguments, and breakups can result. However, when compassionate understanding is utilized within a relationship, conflicts can be resolved, and mutual trust will flow. Successful conflict resolution can increase the bond between two people and improve the relationship. Managing conflict in an unhealthy manner, on the other hand, can harm the relationship.  

Conflict Resolution Skills  

Conflict resolution skills are ways you can tackle conflict amid strong emotions. If emotions get the best of us during conflict, resentments and hurt feelings will prevail. When managed well, conflict can bring two people closer together. Honing in on conflict resolution skills can improve relationships and make conflict a team effort, not a solo endeavor.   Let's dive into some healthy conflict resolution skills.   Related: What Are Distress Tolerance Skills?
Attend & Accept
The first thing we need to do amidst conflict is to attend and accept. As Brett Cushing, Outpatient Therapist at Nystrom & Associates puts it:
When you are in conflict with someone, be sure to first and foremost listen or attend. Attend to what somebody is saying. Lean forward, show interest, show concern. Give a nod or even a mumble. Second, we want to show that we accept them. The best way to bring down someone's elevated emotion is to validate them. When this doesn't come naturally to us, reflect back what they're saying, almost word for word what we just heard them say. Another way is to start off saying, 'Well it makes sense that you would feel that way.' When people first feel accepted and understood, their emotions come down, and they're much more open to hearing what we have to say.
For more tips from Brett, visit our conflict resolution skills specialty page.  
Relieve Stress Quickly
When emotions are high, it’s helpful to relieve stress quickly so you can focus on the conversation at hand. Stress can inhibit your ability to accurately assess the situation, the other person, and your needs. So, to reduce stress, take a moment to do something that is soothing for you. Typically, this involves one of our senses – sight, taste, touch, smell, and sound. When you find yourself tensing up, for example, you could listen to your favorite song, squeeze a stress ball, smell something that calms you, or have a relaxing bath. Doing so will improve your clarity of thought and release tension.   Related: 8 Mindfulness Practices to Reduce Stress
Be Aware of Your Emotions
Emotional awareness is crucial to resolving conflict. Being able to identify how you are feeling and communicating that to another person helps you understand yourself, clarify your needs, and empathize with others. First, think about what you’re feeling, and then reflect on why you feel that way.   Related: 3 Emotional Regulation Mindsets to Adopt in 2022
Work on Your Nonverbal Communication
When it comes to conflict resolution, nonverbal communication often says more than the words we use. This includes your facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and posture. Are you slouched, looking away, or pursing your lips in the middle of a discussion? Try to be engaged in the conversation by looking at the other person, offering a reassuring touch, or using a calm tone of voice.  
Incorporate Humor
Humor or playful communication can be used to dissipate anger and tension. In addition, it can be utilized as a way of expressing things you might not have been able to say otherwise. Keep in mind that it does not mean you are laughing at the other person. Instead, you should be laughing with them. 

A Word From Nystrom & Associates 

Do you need to work on your conflict resolution skills? The providers at Nystrom work with individuals, couples, and families every day on conflict resolution.   If you’d like to begin your journey to improved relationships, call 1-844-NYSTROM or request an appointment online at any of our convenient locations.   Related: How Interpersonal Effectiveness Improves Relationships

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