How can you get what you really want without forcing the other person to put give up on what he or she wants? Effective conflict resolution is based on exploring what each of you needs and wants and finding a way to work together to get everybody’s needs met. Although this may sound very personal and intimate, it’s as important when dealing with workplace conflicts or conflicts with people you don’t know well as it is when dealing with conflicts with loved ones.
For example, if your neighbor wants you to pay for damage he says your child did to his garden and you don’t agree that you or your child was responsible for the damage, you can still engage in productive conflict resolution based on fulfilling both of your needs. Your neighbor may need some sense of reassurance that his property is respected, and you may need respect and trust that you are a responsible parent. This type of conflict can easily turn into a feud, with neighbors taking sides against one another, your child being shunned by the neighbor’s kids and your neighbor suing you for the damage.
However, if you intentionally use conflict resolution tools you and your neighbor can become partners in solving the problem instead of lifelong enemies. If you really deal with the root cause of the issues you can prevent future miscommunication problems from escalating into big conflicts. Resolving a conflict in this way may even help shift your relationships with your neighbors and start to replace feuding alliances with stronger problem-solving rapport in the neighborhood.
Of course, like anything else, conflict resolution takes time. You need to begin at the beginning, using simple tools that can help defuse a conflict before you get too wrapped up in your own emotions and escalate the argument into a full-on fight. Although it can take a while to completely learn new methods of conflict resolution, you will see improvement in your life right away as you use start engaging with conflict resolution in a different way.
You’ll find that as you learn about conflict resolution, you’ll begin to feel happier and more empowered to get what you want out of life. Most ineffective conflict resolution behaviors come from fear and limited thinking. When you’re afraid that you can’t get what you really want, you get fixated on getting it using whatever means possible.
Just as young children throw tantrums in an attempt to make themselves feel powerful, adults sometimes lash out in anger against one another, trying to get something in order to make themselves feel stronger and more capable, more in control. Effective conflict resolution techniques help you shift your focus. Instead of being singularly focused on getting what you want at the moment, you’ll learn to move through fear of not getting it and discover the underlying needs that are driving the conflict in the first place. You’ll also learn to assert yourself without being aggressive and to treat both yourself and the other person involved in the conflict with the respect and dignity that you both deserve. Have patience with yourself. Practice often with small issues as they come up so that when the arguments get escalated and really push your buttons, you have built up the capacity to handle them better.