Resolving personal conflict

Tips and techniques to use when dealing with conflict. These strategies are intended to help you resolve issues yourself. 

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Understand your own needs

Conflict is often the result of unmet needs. Some examples of needs are recognition, fairness, understanding, security, predictability and balance. Try to understand your own needs in a way that’s not just wishing for someone else to change what they’re doing. For more information on this, go to What drives behaviour.

Get a different perspective

You may be going through some challenges unrelated to the conflict, which reduce your ability to respond effectively. When you step back, you may be able to see that the issue itself isn’t insurmountable. But, because of everything else going on, you may have a lower tolerance. For more information on this, go to Managing stress.

Get a second opinion

Discuss the facts of the conflict with a trusted person who can help you check your perception. If you don’t have someone in your personal life, consider accessing a volunteer through one of these organizations

Manage your emotions

Often, strong emotions make resolving conflict a  challenge. Sometimes, it’s difficult to manage our emotional reactions and see what can be changed for the situation to get better. A trained counsellor can help us learn to manage our emotional reactions more effectively. In addition to seeking help, you can learn how to improve your own emotional intelligence

Don’t blame or shame others

When we accuse someone else or point out their flaws, their natural reaction may be to justify, defend, counter-attack or withdraw. It’s hard to be open to new ideas and resolve conflict when we think we’re under attack. For more information on this, go to Preparing for a difficult conversation. Learn how to provide Constructive criticism.

Don’t see yourself as a victim

If we believe we’re under attack, our natural reaction may be to justify, defend, counter-attack or withdraw. We may also look for evidence that everyone’s against us and have difficulty seeing positives. Learn how to Tolerate confrontation.

Think about underlying issues

If you have conflict with someone, it’s unlikely you’re their biggest concern. In most cases, family, finances, health, reputation or security are primary issues. Consider what might be behind the other person’s behaviours. See the Supportive conversation library to help you have a supportive conversation with someone on difficult topics like mental health, stress, addiction, anger, abuse or lying.

Talk it out

Once you understand your own needs, sit down in private with the other person and seek to understand their needs. Find out what’s necessary for you both to resolve the on-going issues. Remember to resist blaming or shaming. Focus only on the solution (what changes can be made), even if the other person goes back to the problem. If this seems too challenging, ask someone respected by all parties to help you with this step. If we want someone to move towards a better resolution, we need to understand how they would benefit from a change in circumstances as well. Although this approach to conflict was created for the workplace, you may find the information helpful in your personal life. 

Get commitment instead of compliance

When everyone involved is part of creating the solution and walking away with their dignity intact, long-term success is much more likely. When someone is threatened, forced into action, or can’t see the benefit the change holds for them, they may not feel as committed to the resolution. 

Let it go

Whether the resolution is exactly what you hoped for, or just good enough, don’t let it continue to affect your well-being. If you need help letting go of negative or frustrating thoughts, reach out to someone who can help, like a trusted friend or counsellor. Holding on to these thoughts can be damaging to your mental and physical well-being.

Sometimes, conflict seems overwhelming. We may wonder why we can’t resolve issues easily and feel frustrated and hurt. Sometimes, we may believe the conflict is someone else’s fault entirely, and don’t see our part in it. At other times, we may think it’s all our fault. It may be hard to accept, but your needs and the needs of the person you’re in conflict with are both important. Resolution happens when everyone’s needs are met.

Psychologically safe interactions is a set of workshop resources that shows how behaviours might be interpreted as bullying, regardless of intent. You may wish to suggest your workplace facilitate this workshop to help all team members improve how they interact with each other.

Contributors include.articlesMary Ann BayntonMental Health WorksMood Disorders Association of OntarioWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021

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