Conflict is a normal part of life, without conflict nothing would ever change, we would all just agree with the status quo and life would not be as we know it today.

When I meet someone new for the first time and they ask me what I do I always have a moment of hesitation because I generally get the same type of response. “Oh I hate conflict, I don’t know how you do that, it must be so stressful”.

In that moment I smile on the inside because the person I am speaking to has no idea that there is now conflict between us; because I love conflict, I think it is very healthy and creates change.

The difference between our perceptions of conflict is the way in which we are taught to manage it and how society sees it. For some reason society interprets the word conflict as a negative, which it can be, however conflict is everywhere and if we begin to recognise conflict in all of its forms we will begin to see that most of the conflict that we are engaged in is generally more positive than negative.

Many of my Family Dispute Resolution clients are going through separation or divorce and and during this time conflict is usually at its peak.

Conflict managed well involves respectful communication, curiosity, an open mind and a willingness to create a space for conversation and understanding. Most things that we deal with in life have no perfect answer especially when it comes to relationships and parenting. There are of course the obvious exceptions such as domestic violence, child abuse, criminal activity etc but if we focus on the general issues that arise, differences and disagreements are normal. Differences and disagreements are conflict, but for some reason though we aren’t comfortable in using this word or recognising the skills that we have in resolving the conflict.

Next time you find yourself in a situation where there is difference or disagreement, pay attention to the process of how it gets resolved, focus on the words that are used, the body language of the participants, the openness for understanding and resolutions. Critique what worked well and what didn’t, then replicate the positives in other areas of life where conflict is present. This will create constructive conflict resolution skills that you can then use in more difficult situations. Practice makes perfect.

Tips to try:

  • Be curious – Ask open questions to gain an understanding of the other person’s perspective.
  • Acknowledge – Let the other person know that you hear what they have said/feel.
  • Body language – Use open welcoming body language, no crossed arms, eye rolls etc.
  • Take turns in speaking – Let each other finish what is being said.
  • Listen – Listen to understand not just to respond.
  • Check your understanding – Paraphrase back to the person what you think you have heard to ensure that you fully understand and are not making assumptions.
  • Be open – Remember that your perspective is just that, your perspective.
  • Choice – Know that you have a choice in how you respond in all situations.

If you use these tips you will be surprised at the response you will receive from the other person and it will hopefully assist in lowering the defences and create an environment for solutions and change.