“I want to go to the movies,” says one sibling. “But I want to go to the baseball game,” says the other sibling. “I want to make dinner on the grill tonight,” says the husband. “But I want to use our new oven to make dinner tonight,” says the wife. “Wash the dishes this way,” says Mom. “No, I wash the dishes my way,” says the daughter. The union wants a contract with a salary increase. But the company wants to impose a contract with a salary decrease. The high school senior wants to go to college, but his family cannot afford to pay for college. Everyday experience suggests that conflict cannot be avoided in interaction with others. So what are some practical strategies for resolving conflict?
First, let’s define interpersonal conflict. In general, interpersonal conflict happens when two people disagree about something. That is, when one person’s needs, beliefs, or opinions are in opposition to another person’s needs, beliefs, or opinions, a conflict is likely to occur. In fact, the following six sources of conflict are usually the cause of most interpersonal conflict: (1) possessions, (2) environmental conditions, (3) methods of doing things, (4) control, (5) opinions, and (6) beliefs.
Knowing conflict is a natural part of life and knowing common sources of conflict, how can we deal with conflict in a healthy way so that we can find a solution that satisfies both of us? Here are eight strategies to resolve conflict. (1) When there is a dispute about possessions, let’s say having to use one computer among siblings, taking turns for certain amount of time works well. (2) Expressing regret is another way for one person to attempt to resolve a disagreement. Too often, it seems, people are unwilling to express regret or ask for forgiveness, yet it can resolve many conflicts. (3) Active listening is another strategy to resolve a conflict. A conflict situation sometimes occurs because one person is actually not listening to what the other person is trying to express, so a conflict occurs because of misinterpretation. (4) Compromise, perhaps the most used conflict resolution strategy, is a way of really understanding how important your goals and relationships are to you. (5) Using humor can be another alternative strategy to resolve conflict. After actively listening to each other, it is sometimes clear to see that the source of the conflict is really insignificant, so using humor regarding how silly it is to be in such a conflict situation can be a useful strategy to resolve conflict. (6) Problem solving is another widely used and natural way of resolving conflict. With input from each person involved in a conflict and by taking turns to express a solution, innovative and creative ideas are likely to occur in finding a resolution to the conflict. (7) Postponing is another option to resolve a conflict. There are times when people see events to be conflict sources, but within a few days, there really turns out to be no conflict. (8) Sharing appears to be a logical and simple resolution to many conflicts, yet it is difficult to do. But ultimately sharing, like compromise, is a way of really understanding how important your goals and relationships are to you.
Conflict is a natural part of human interaction, so understanding basic sources of conflict and strategies to resolve conflict can be useful in everyday life. Six basic sources of conflict can be summarized with the acronym PEMCOB (possessions, environment, methods of doing things, control, opinions, and beliefs). Eight strategies to resolve conflict can be summarized with the acronym TEACUPPS (take turns, express regret, active listen, use humor, problem-solve, postpone, and share).
Michael Walters is a high school counselor and a licensed professional counselor. He has a special interest in strengthening family relationships and empowering individuals to reach their goals.