Approaching Conflict Resolution – Some top tips #tipsandtools

By Duncan Gordon, SCCR Trainer

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An illustration of two people dealing with conflict.

Conflict Resolution Top tips
If you find yourself in a situation where you are arguing or having disagreements with another person here are some tips that will help you deal with or prevent things from getting worse. You should use as many as of these tips as you need for your situation to be effective.

Staying calm
Though emotions are high make a conscious effort to stay calm, this will not only help you but the other person as well. The other person will take cues from your behaviour and by staying calm their emotional state will start to level out.

Take a breath
This is one of the most important tips on offer when your emotions are high and you are in a confrontational situation. Your body automatically goes into a fight mode, a primal response ready to react or “fight back”. To come out of this the brain needs to be activated. This activation is done by supplying it with [more] oxygen. By stopping and taking a breath before you respond you will be able to think a bit more clearly, which may prevent a potentially destructive response.

Having a desire to resolve the matter
Both you and the other person must have a desire to resolve whatever matter is being argued or fought over. You may have to confirm with the other person that they have the same desire, a simple question may suffice. Once established it becomes a starting point for further communication.

Aim to both agree a solution
Ideally if you and the other person can work together cooperatively to find a mutually agreeable outcome, then your relationship has the potential to be strengthened and deepened with regards to understanding, respect and trust.

Focus on the problem
Focus on the problem and not the person, do not attack the person as this is counterproductive and disrespectful. If the person has acted inappropriately then their behaviour should be dealt with separately after the problem has been resolved. Dealing with the problem may have a positive, even reflective, impact on the other person’s behaviour.

Acknowledge and respect the other person
It is important that you are able to acknowledge and respect the other person no matter who they maybe. By empathising with the other person and understanding their point of view (whether you agree with it or not) supports the resolution process without the fear of either of you losing face.

Take responsibility
Any argument, dispute or confrontation is not a one sided affair therefore acknowledging and taking responsibility for your part in the situation can deflect and de-escalate the emotion and negative behaviours in the room.

Don’t be defensive, conflict is an opportunity for change
If you avoid dealing with conflict then it is not resolved. Understandably it can be daunting to challenge and assert yourself. However it may be helpful to change your mind set by seeing conflict as an opportunity for change. This allows you to look at and think of the process [conflict] more positively.

Changing “you” statements to “I” statements
When emotions are running high “you” statements tend to be used. These are normally blaming, accusatory and judgemental focussing on the person and escalating the situation for example; “You are such a…” “It is your fault that…” “As usual you are…”. “I” statements however inform the other person of how their behaviour is impacting on you for example; “I feel scared when you shout at me, I think we can work things out if you calm down”. This allows the other person to reflect on the effect of their actions and modify their behaviour towards you.

Have adult to adult conversations
Be assertive in your communications, empathise and be clear of your intent and commitment to get to a resolution. Do not move into ‘parent’ mode by being controlling and directing, or into a ‘child’ mode by being immature and temperamental, these can be counterproductive to the resolution process.

Give yourself space
When you feel yourself getting angry it is a trigger event, a stimulus getting your body ready to respond, to fight or flight.  Then there is space where you get angrier until you release the anger. The goal is to expand the space between stimulus and response. There are various techniques you can use; counting to ten, distraction, do something you find relaxing, take a deep breath, go out in the fresh air, I am sure you can think of many more.

Duncan Gordon, SCCR Trainer

Duncan is a qualified trainer and has worked in a variety of roles within the third sector for many years. As the SCCR’s Trainer, Duncan delivers Conflict Resolution training to those who work with young people and families and to young people and families across Scotland.

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