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Jan 09

Want Better Relationships? Unlock Your Conflict Management Toolbox

Do you avoid confrontation?

Many people do their best to avoid [tag-tec]conflict and confrontation [/tag-tec]at any cost. Do you notice yourself doing this? If so, when you know that a confrontation is possibly coming your way, you probably start to feel a great deal of tension and worry. And after a confrontation, you are left with a huge pile of bad feelings. So it seems to make perfect sense to just try and avoid all situations where conflict is possible.

Not so fast… what if there were ways to change how you handle these situations. What if you could solve conflicts and [tag-tec]deal with confrontations[/tag-tec] in a way that would leave you feeling more comfortable and less upset? If that sounds like more fun to you, read on and discover five keys that will help you unlock your personal conflict management toolbox

It is important that you understand the definition of confrontation before you can learn to effectively manage it. According to the dictionary definition, confrontation is “discord that results from clashing ideas or opinions.” Confrontation is not simply a disagreement, it occurs when the people involved are viewing it as a “clash” that cannot be resolved.

The five keys

The first key–when trying to avoid confrontations–is that you should stop trying to avoid them. This might sound a little crazy at first, but think about it, is it really possible to avoid confrontation altogether? Well maybe if you sat in a cave and never talk to anyone, but then you wouldn’t be reading this article. So if you want to dramatically reduce your anxiety about confrontation use key number one and stop trying to avoid conflict and confrontation.

The second key to [tag-tec]successful conflict management [/tag-tec]is to rethink how you define confrontation. When you begin to understand that what you’re actually trying to avoid is judgment from others, not getting your way, or possibly losing a relationship that you value, then you’ll start to realize it is the outcome that you’re avoiding, not the confrontation itself.

When you constantly see confrontation as something to be avoided, you will remain in a state of fear that will stimulate the “fight or flight” reaction–minimizing your ability to come up with ideas to manage the situation effectively.

Try this definition of confrontation on for size “to bring face to face.” Meeting someone face to face, does not need to be a confrontation. Expecting that you may have a difference of opinion will help you relax and be able to resolve any differences that arise.

Now that you’ve stopped avoiding conflict and redefined it, you can also stop getting defensive, aggressive, or just running for the hills. Start by learning some creative ways to handle confrontation when it comes your way–ones that satisfy everyone involved.

Now for key number three, when you find yourself gearing up to avoid a confrontation, use your uncomfortable feelings as a signal to yourself, a warning of sorts that you need to stop and reflect on the situation. Think about the situation as an explorer would. There is always something worthy of discovery, something that remains untapped and could provide some precious knowledge and experience.

Believe in your ability to explore new things, like handling confrontation creatively. Be an explorer, and you will be thrilled to discover your new strategies and solutions.

Commit yourself to new discoveries-develop a mindset that allows you to think using new patterns and to create results that totally line up with what you value. When everyone involved is satisfied, then you have cooperative relationships and confrontation becomes a non-issue.

The fourth important key is to learn how to focus on values. Focus on everyone’s values, not just yours. Don’t focus on another person’s complaints, but instead try to focus on what their underlying values actually are.

When you are focused on discovering new ways of interacting–when you’re playing the role of explorer and navigate through the conversation–always stay focused on uncovering satisfying solutions. When you are committed to including what’s most important to everyone in your solutions, you will find that your relationships become much more satisfying.

If you let it, any confrontation can be seen as a treasure map–one that can guide you through the sea of discovery, leading you to new experiences. When you are persistent with your exploration of confrontation, you will find that these new discoveries provide you with clarity that helps negotiate any conflict or confrontation in a way that everyone can be satisfied.

The fifth and final key is that whenever someone says or does anything that might normally lead to a confrontation; the reason they said or did it reflects their own missing values in the situation and is not consciously intended to create a conflict.

If you stop and take the time to identify what they value in the situation–what’s important to them that’s missing–they’ll not only appreciate this gesture, but will be more open to hearing what’s important to you.

Sadly, most people are not readily able to identify what they value most. Most of us were not encouraged at a young age to pay attention to what we care about most or what we needed, nor did we expect that other people would care about our needs. Learning how to unlock your new personal conflict management toolbox takes patience and plenty of practice, but it can be accomplished. Stick with it–you really can find satisfying solutions that all parties in a relationship will be happy with.

With love,
Beth and Neill

4 Responses to “Want Better Relationships? Unlock Your Conflict Management Toolbox”

  1. Beth Banning says:

    Beautifully said Jacqueline.

    I so agree when you said, “When we stop seeing others as the “enemy” and start seeing them as just like us but with different life filters, we stop expecting conflict. Then we approach situations with the attitude of wanting to understand the other person and focusing on solutions that best serve all concerned”

    We liken it to being an explorer… when you have the mindset of an explorer you can think of a confrontation as a treasure map, a map that can guide you across a sea of uncertainty and different opinions. Through persistence you can discover a magnificent treasure of values that were hidden just over the horizon of dissatisfaction and complaints. Discovering what everyone values can give you the clarity you need to negotiate strategies that will satisfy everyone involved.

    As we said above the truth you can use as a compass to direct your course is that anything people do or say is always because they value something or they are trying to meet some need. It’s never really about you! The ability to accurately identify what everyone values and needs is essential for creating those satisfying outcomes are talking about.

    Thanks again for stopping by and interacting with us. and also thanks for all the wonderful work you’re doing in the world.

  2. Jacqueline Stone says:

    What a wonderful post! I am one of those people who used to avoid conflict at any cost. It all came down to fear, not so much of the conflict itself, but of not being good enough in some way. My self-worth was sub-zero, so if someone disagreed with me or something I did, I felt they were probably right, and I was ashamed. A big part of it was an unconscious belief that everyone and everything was there to hurt me. I lived in defense all the time.
    The key to changing these self-sabotaging beliefs and programs was developing genuine self-love. I finally came to realize that I am a valuable and worthwhile human being. My feelings and ideas not only matter, they have value. When someone disagrees with me, it’s not a personal attack; just a difference of opinion.
    Progress in the area of self-love allowed me to see that conflicts are only the point where different perspectives meet. Neither one is necessarily wrong, just different. Now, I don’t see conflicts; I see areas where greater communication is needed.
    Conflict often arises where we expect it to, because we expect it. When we stop seeing others as the “enemy” and start seeing them as just like us but with different life filters, we stop expecting conflict. Then we approach situations with the attitude of wanting to understand the other person and focusing on solutions that best serve all concerned.
    Thank you for addressing this very important, and common, issue. You did a great job with it!

  3. Ann Janauer says:

    I love this post. I am one of those folks who try to avoid the unpleasantness of disagreement. I used to handle it by always finding a way to agree. But then I became such a wishy washy people pleaser I was unhappy with myself. Instinctively I moved over to something like the steps you suggest so I know that this works but recently I have started working with my sister and brother to run a private school started by our parents and I find that I am so afraid of my sister’s disapproval that I am back in the same old fear of confrontation I thought I grew out of. I think focusing on the values and trusting that we both want the same things (the school to be a great academic experience for our students) then I should be able to get past this. Thanks for the help.

  4. Amy Jewell / Cirklagirl says:

    Great information here. I have learned a lot about conflict resolution through the study of tai chi. In tai chi, we learn to divert energy that is directly facing by gently guiding it aside. This applies well in many of life’s situations, I have found. I also love the line, “Seek first to understand…” I believe Stephen Covey said that, unless he was quoting someone else. Words are funny like that.