Does the word conflict make you feel immediately uncomfortable?
Would you do anything to shut down or change a conversation if there was a disagreement?
That’s a normal reaction because fighting isn’t fun. It’s stressful and it can affect your important relationships.
However, in many situations at work or with friends it can be a healthy way to express your feelings and to have your thoughts and opinions heard.
What stops us speaking up when we disagree?
There’s a lot of different reasons and I’ve picked out here some of the common ones my clients mention:
A deep fear of upsetting the other person, being disapproved of or causing other negative emotions
An experience of bad arguments in your childhood or adulthood
A childhood where there was never conflict and disagreements weren’t discussed
Conditioning by society, school or parents to behave like a ‘nice’ girl
How do I build my conflict resolution skills?
Step 1 – is this issue important enough to me to speak up? You don’t have to confront every situation but if it’s happened before, you are having conversations in your head about it or it breaches your personal boundaries, then go for it
Step 2 – speak assertively. This means talking about the facts of the situation and using ‘I’ statement. Then you won’t be blaming the other person and they’re less likely to be defensive
Step 3 – Listen and question. I like to think about Stephen Covey’s famous quote “Seek first to understand, then to be understood“
Step 4 – what is the real issue behind the conflict? The issue for the other person might not be actually what you’re disagreeing about. For example, a heated family discussion about who has the parents for Xmas might actually be about feelings of jealousy or being left out. When you know the real meaning it’s easier to be compassionate
Step 5 – winning isn’t always the right outcome. Having a set outcome in mind is important, such as an apology or change of opinion. But sometimes just speaking up for yourself is enough. It gives a great boost to your self-respect and also might build the other person’s respect for you.