Unresolved disputes or conflicts can lie dormant for days, weeks, months, or even years, only to explode on another occasion. Rather than avoiding the conflict why not make 2018 your best year yet by starting the year empowered and ready to move beyond those difficult unsettled issues? You can start the new year from a place of empowerment and confidence to face whatever may arise in the future. The best way to do this is to find healthy ways to resolve those long-held contentions, even if it means attending some dispute resolution sessions.

Conflicts and disagreements are common even in functional relationships. It is normal. When a disputed issue does arise, everyone involved has the choice of how to deal with it. The person may opt to avoid the issue and smooth things over; they may discuss it at length; or one or other party may become angry, tearful or hostile so that the dispute ends on an unpleasant note.

Openly confronted disagreements can be resolved in ways that assist cohesion in relationships and mutual understanding. Conflict prevents stagnation in relationships and stimulates interest and curiosity. It is the medium through which problems can be aired and solutions arrived at and can actually be enjoyable as a person experiences the pleasure of the full and active use of their capabilities. Certainly, seeing dispute resolution as such is a desirable alternative to avoiding it altogether only to create further issues over time.

It is interesting to realise that allowing disputes to run their course in a safe, managed environment is not only healthy but decreases anxiety. Resolving disputes and learning how to deal with conflict and disputes is a skill and over time when issues arise handling them will be less stressful for the person who has learned it and there will be less desire to rush to avoid or smooth things over. Healthy people who have learned these skills realise that conflict is a natural, ongoing aspect of everyday communication.

It is important when dealing with long term or long running disputes that you understand what the dispute is really about. Sometimes conflict can be a personality clash or a simple misunderstanding. If you are aware that it is something more than that and you know what the precise issue is it can be more easily dealt with.

These are 10 steps you can try, to resolve the conflict:

1. Agree on a mutually acceptable time and place to discuss the conflict.

2. State the problem as you see it and list your concerns.

Make “I” statements.
Withhold judgments, accusations, and absolute statements (“always” or “never”).

3. Let the other person have his/her say.

Do not interrupt or contradict.
Do not allow name-calling, put-downs, threats, obscenities, yelling, or intimidating behavior.

4. Listen and ask questions.

Ask fact-based questions (who? what? where? when? how?) to make sure you understand the situation.
Ask exploratory questions (what if? what are you saying? is this the only solution to our problem? what if we did such and such? are there other alternatives to this situation?). Avoid accusatory “why” questions (why are you like that?).
Use your own words to restate what you think the other person means and wants. Acknowledge the person’s feelings and perceptions.

5. Stick to one conflict at a time — to the issue at hand.

Do not change the subject or allow it to be changed.
“I understand your concern, but I’d like to finish what we’re talking about before we discuss it.”

6. Seek common ground.

What do you agree on?
What are your shared concerns?

7. Brainstorm solutions to the conflict that allow everyone to win.

8. Request behaviour changes only.

Don’t ask others to change their attitudes.
Don’t ask them to “feel” differently about something.
Don’t ask them to “be” different.
If you want them to “stop doing” something, suggest an alternative action.

9. Agree to the best way to resolve the conflict and to a timetable for implementing it.

Who will do what by when?

10. If the discussion breaks down, reschedule another time to meet. This may also be the time to consider bringing in a third party.

A mediator may be able to help you resolve your dispute if you find it is more than you can do on your own. They can teach you dispute resolution techniques and help you find better ways to communicate with each other. With these tips and tactics, you can learn to accept that conflict is a natural characteristic of relationships and with the right attitude from all parties involved and mutual understanding and respect it can be possible to reach a resolution which is satisfactory for everyone.

Let’s Resolve!