9 Tips for Resolving Conflict
For most of us, interpersonal conflict is one of the biggest sources of stress in our lives, perhaps second only to financial stress. In fact, interpersonal stress and financial stress often overlap. People starting out in recovery typically identify stress, and interpersonal conflict in particular, as a major trigger of drug and alcohol cravings. The early days of recovery following might also have more conflict than you’re used to.
As you try to make some big changes in your life, some people will resist. However, you have to live your life and maintain healthy boundaries if you want to stay sober. The following tips can help you resolve conflict, reduce stress, and generally reduce the amount of friction in your recovery and your life.
Be Aware of Your Tendencies
As with most aspects of emotional intelligence, being more self-aware will help you resolve conflict more effectively. Many people tend to avoid conflict, even when doing so makes them worse off, while others tend to create and escalate conflict unnecessarily. It’s always good to be aware of your own tendencies, learn to take a step back, and ask yourself objectively if there is a problem you need to address.
Acknowledge a Problem
If there is a problem, the first thing is to acknowledge it, even if you don’t know how to resolve it or you don’t feel like you can handle it. If there is a real problem, ignoring it won’t make it go away. Just because you aren’t yet sure how to deal with it doesn’t mean a resolution isn’t possible.
Don’t try to resolve conflict while you’re feeling overly emotional, whether you’re feeling angry, scared, hurt, sad, or whatever else. When you’re feeling that way, you will be focused on expressing yourself. That’s fine, but it also makes it harder to listen and consider the other person’s point of view and you are more likely to say or do something to make the situation worse. Give it a day before you try to work out the problem with the other person. If that’s not possible, take a few deep breaths, let yourself calm down, and try to proceed objectively.
The first step in actually resolving the conflict is to listen to the other side. Any satisfactory solution will have to be based on mutual understanding. It’s hard to listen to someone you feel is your adversary but it’s a crucial step. You gain information and often the other person will become more reasonable if they feel like you’re listening and taking their considerations seriously.
Conflicts often begin with a communication from the other party, such as an angry phone call or a demanding email. You might feel ambushed. As noted above, let yourself cool off before responding. Take some time to think about what the other person really wants or needs. Often, they are under pressure too, and understanding that will be important for resolving the conflict.
Define the Problem
Having a clear understanding of the problem is necessary for a good solution. You can move toward a clear understanding by practicing reflection. This is when you summarize the situation as the other person has explained it to you. This shows you were listening and taking them seriously and it also helps resolve any potential misunderstandings. Often, just clearing up miscommunications is enough to resolve a conflict. If not, you can at least start with an agreed understanding of the facts.
Find Common Ground
As noted above, it’s hard to listen and have an open discussion with someone you view as an adversary. Most of the time, your disagreements will be with people who are actually on your side--relatives, coworkers, friends, and so on. Although you may want different things in this specific situation, it’s important to remember that you’re not actually enemies.
Even if someone isn’t actually on your side--and perhaps especially when they’re not--finding common ground is a great way to start working toward a solution. Agreeing on facts, as noted above, is good. Even better is if you can identify any aspects of the problem that are not actually in conflict.
Be Willing to Compromise
There’s an old saying that the sign of a good compromise is that no one is happy. That may not sound reassuring, but sometimes you have to be prepared to make sacrifices to achieve your larger goals. Know which aspects of the conflict are most important to you and which are secondary and be willing to compromise on those secondary aspects. Also, keep the context in mind. For example, it’s typically not worth sacrificing a friendship over a minor argument.
Work Toward a Solution, Not Vindication
While working on a solution, don’t get too hung up on being right. Being right or getting credit are typically not worth very much in the scheme of things. Wanting vindication, wanting to have things your own way, and so on, typically just get in the way of a resolution. Stay focused on what outcome you want and don’t get distracted by the cosmetic stuff.
Be Ready to Forgive
When you have finally reached a solution or resolved an argument, be willing to let it go. If you don’t let it go, then the problem hasn’t really been resolved. If you tell the other person that you are satisfied with whatever compromise you decided on, continuing to complain about it, even if you’re just silently resentful, is essentially like reneging on an agreement. That’s bad for your own mental health and it’s bad for the relationship.
Conflict is inevitable and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Nor does it mean that the person you’re in conflict with is bad. It’s normal for people’s legitimate needs and desires to clash from time to time. With a little patience and empathy, conflict can usually be resolved satisfactorily, if not perfectly.
At The Foundry, we know that a strong recovery from addiction is about far more than just abstinence from drugs and alcohol. That’s why we focus on skills such as emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, family relationships, and building social support as part of a holistic approach to addiction recovery. To learn more, call us today at 844-955-1066.