Times of conflict can drive us to despair. However, it is important to remember that there are proven ways to shift and move through even the most difficult conflicts. The good news is, that in a relationship where a conflict has been resolved the parties involved can be closer than they were before the conflict. The process of resolving conflict people are involved in can develop greater compassion and understanding for each other.
In times of conflict, it is possible to resolve things in three ways: as a lose/lose, a win/lose or ideally, a win/win outcome, where both parties have a solution where they are equally happy. To illustrate the win/win approach, we will use the example of two people in a kitchen who both want an orange:
- When in conflict acknowledge the concerns of the other person. You don’t need to agree with them; however, it is helpful to be empathetic. Empathy is when you try to put yourself in their shoes and see how they are feeling. Try to let go of the feeling to make judgments of who is right or wrong. This will diffuse the anger and the emotion in the situation. For example: If someone is yelling at you saying that he wanted the orange too, you could say: “I can see that you were counting on using that orange and now that I want it, you are upset”.
- Find out what the other person’s needs are. For example, one person may be thirsty and want the orange for juice, while the other may want to use the orange rind for a cake.
- Find out where the differences dovetail. The above example shows two people wanting the same thing for different reasons. Individual differences in personality, purpose and interest consistently create a divergence of needs, but you’ll notice them only if you go looking for them.
- Look for the options in a conflict where the answers may not be so clear. Where one person wants the juice and the other wants the rind; the answer is obvious since each one can take what they want from the whole orange. However, when both people want the orange juice because they are both thirsty, different options need to be devised. Sharing the juice is the obvious compromise. However, you could also add water, buy more oranges, find something else to drink.
- Co-operation to create partners rather than opponents. When you agree on the best option, the relationship is at least maintained and at best enhanced. If you cut the orange in half because you are both thirsty, your solution may resemble a compromise or win/lose approach. With win/win, we together look for solutions by acknowledging and supporting everyone’s needs and values.
For more Tips on Resolving Conflict with Challenging People, Check Out 8 Ways to Deal with Difficult People.