Five Ways to Resolve Conflict and Save a Valuable Relationship

Most people approach conflict under the assumption that the other person(s) should have known better than to make a mistake causing them harm. Surely it’s always the other persons’ fault, right? WRONG. There may be things you’ve done to contribute to the problem without even realizing it. The only way you’ll find out how to fix the problem is by having a conversation. 

You do not have the power to change someone else. No one does! No matter what you’ve heard or what you’ve experienced, please know this fact to be evident. Before change happens, the individual must make a personal decision to act on whatever it is you’d like them to do.

But here’s the good news….

You have the power to influence the way others think and how they behave. You can do this only by changing the way you react to conflict. My five points itemized below will focus on changing YOU, not the other person. 

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Initiate and Acknowledge. When you are in a disagreement with someone the root problem is both hurt and lack of understanding. If you want to save a valuable relationship, don’t waste time waiting for them to come to you. Go to them with strict intention to resolve the conflict.  First you’ll need to acknowledge the hurt. Let them know you hear them. Literally, you must verbalize! Repeat back to them exactly what they’ve described the problem is. By doing this you are not only showing them you realize they are hurt, you are showing them you have a desire to make it right. Stating the problem out loud will prompt them to become more open to having a conversation. 
  2. Actively listen before you speak. Crazy thing, there’s a huge difference between active listening and hearing. When someone expresses frustration, they are likely sharing from their heart. Behind all the distracting comments preceding or following their delivery, the root of the problem is hurt. They want to know you are listening to them and not just waiting until they are done while storing up thoughts so you can defend your position. When you immediately respond with your defense to justify your behavior, you are proving not only that you’re not listening to them but you’re also sadly participating in the problem. 
  3. Apologize. Yes, I know many people have an issue with this one but apologizing is easy for leaders. Real leaders understand apologizing doesn’t mean you are admitting to being wrong. It means you desire to save the relationship more than protect your ego. Oh, and just so we’re clear, an apology doesn’t include, “but I…..”. A sincere apology is simply saying “I apologize for hurting you (period!). That was not my intention.”
  4. Provide a solution. When you’re truly ready to solve a problem, you must come with an idea of how you can move forward. Never leave a conflicting situation without providing an opportunity for each of you to learn what to do RIGHT the next time the situation occurs. 
  5. Accept responsibility. Now that you’ve offered a solution, it must be accepted by you and them before you can really say you have resolved a problem. You’ll need the other side to be in agreement with your proposed solution before you can both move forward in a positive direction. What you propose may not be what they want or expect. Don’t get frustrated, rather welcome the opportunity to put your minds together and come up with an equally beneficial solution. Without clarity, understanding and agreement of what to do right, how will you insure you don’t make the same mistakes next time?  

With these 5 steps, you are well on your way to resolving conflict to save any valuable relationship. 

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