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Dealing with Conflict in Relationships

Updated on September 18, 2009

We are all different and we all have different perspectives of the world. To add to that, our emotions, behavior and reactions are not consistent; they are affected by the events in our lives. No wonder we run into conflicts with others and battle to communicate successfully.

When we clash with others our struggle is really around having what we want and need. Typically our emotions then get in the way and logic and solutions are difficult to access. What we need to do is understand what is truly happening and what we are really wanting, and then communicate that in a non-judgmental and clear way.

There are four steps that you need to follow in order to get it right:

There are ways to deal with relationship conflict
There are ways to deal with relationship conflict

Know What You Feel

In order to make identifying your feelings easier, start with the facts. The most effective way of understanding what is happening is to ask yourself a number of questions:

  • Who is involved?
  • What happens?
  • When does it occur?
  • Where does it take place?

Be as specific as you can. Don’t merely say that the person is careless rather note that it is when they lose an item of value that conflict arises.

Once you have all of those details you then turn to the emotions:

What do you feel in this situation?

You need to determine exactly what emotions arise under these circumstances. When things get heated it is often easy to become lost in a sea of feelings and it is only later on that one can really identify and understand what is happening.

Know What You Want

You now understand the situation and what is going on inside yourself. The next thing is to decide and be clear on exactly what it is that you want, need and prefer.

Consider how you want to feel and what is required for you to feel this way. Think about what needs to change in order for you to no longer struggle in this area.

Again look at the details of the situation (want, when, where, whom etc.) and determine how you would like it to be different.

Knowing what you want can make dealing with conflict easier
Knowing what you want can make dealing with conflict easier

Know What You Are Willing To Do

With relationships comes compromise. Yes, you know what you want or need, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is reasonable for the other person to simply provide that. They also have wants and needs.

Now your task is to determine what you will be willing to do or sacrifice in order to improve the situation and resolve the conflict.

Communicate It

The most important aspect of communication is to eliminate blame and judgment. The quickest way of identifying blame and judgment is when the word “you” is used.

For example: “you are lazy”; “you never listen”, “you don’t care”.

To communicate successfully you must focus on yourself and on the facts. You talk about how you are feeling and why. You use the word “I”.

Now is the time to put everything you have done thus far together: what you feel, what you want and what you are willing to sacrifice. Prepare for when you next face a conflict situation. Your communication needs to take the form of:

  1. I feel…when…
  2.  I want…
  3. I am willing…

For example:

  1. I feel scared when you come home late and I am alone in the house.
  2. I would like you to leave work an hour earlier.
  3. I will accept that you may need to do some work at home during the evening.

(Note that “when you come home late” is a fact, not blame.)

Another example:

  1. I feel hurt when you don’t help me prepare dinner.
  2. I would like you to assist me more.
  3. It doesn’t need to be every evening, but at least Monday to Thursdays.

(Note that it is important for you to get to the underlying emotion. For example, you may think that when your partner doesn’t help with preparing dinner you feel anger, but, in actual fact, it is hurt that you experience.)

Resolving conflict
Resolving conflict

In Conclusion...

This is a simple, yet very effective means of understanding and dealing with conflict situations. You remove unnecessary and unconstructive emotions, you assert yourself and you show respect for the other person. Once you can reach this level you will feel more empowered in your relationships as well as more satisfied in your life.

Image credits: wheat_in_your_hair; doug88888; Batega


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    • JulietduPreez profile image

      JulietduPreez 8 years ago

      Hi Pacal

      Yes, trying to keep emotions under control is very difficult. I think it is a matter of taking small steps and not expecting too much too soon. A good place to start is always simply awareness and noticing what one is doing.


    • profile image

      Pacal Votan 8 years ago

      A mature view on relationships. Unfortunately, I find that if something, it's relationships that make it hardest to keep to one's common sense.

      Thanks for the hub.