“Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”—William James
Conflict is never an easy thing to deal with and be quite stressful. Old, deeply rooted conflicts can really affect your life and how you relate to day to day life. When you allow a past conflict to turn to resentment and become a defining part of a relationship, it can be challenging to move forward, but it's not impossible. It's just a matter of taking the right conflict resolution approach.
Look at the Conflict with an Open Heart and Mind
Many times a past conflict can be resolved by simply looking at it with a fresh, calm perspective. When you learn how to look at a past conflict without raising your blood pressure or losing sleep, you'll be much more likely to find an amicable resolution.
The first thing you should do is look at the conflict objectively. You need to raise all of the issues and truly look at the situations from both sides. Keep in mind to be respectful. Actively listen to the other person. Too many times it’s easy to be plotting your next comeback than to actively listen. Remember to focus on the problem, not the person because personal attacks have never solved anything. If you're having a difficult time communicating, a third-party can help mediate the discussion so that all parties are equally heard.
Use your mutual interests and concerns as a starting point. For example, if you were fighting with a sibling over a parent's estate, perhaps you were both trying to ensure that the estate was as fair and balanced as possible. Go forward from this point so that you start at a place where you both agree.
Brainstorm resolutions that everyone can agree on. Conflict usually occurs when one or both parties sense inequality, so get together and brainstorm ideas that will help you resolve the conflict. You may find that you are actually building on one another's ideas. That's a good thing! The goal is to come to a resolution that provides mutual gain.
Create standards of how things will be going forward and create all of your agreements surrounding these standards. This will help to ensure that you don't have the same obstacles in the future. By setting specific standards, everyone will be able to communicate in the most respectful and effective manner moving forward.
Accept What You Cannot Change
We all hear that we should accept the things that we cannot change, but this is easier said than done. When it comes to past conflicts you should always seek to resolve them first. If you cannot, it's time to accept the things that you cannot change.
• Give up control. When you give up trying to control what is uncontrollable suddenly the stress of dealing with the conflict dissolves. You will feel like a mountain has been lifted off of your shoulders and you may find that you have a whole new look on life as well as the conflict and the person or people involved with it.
• Share what you feel. When you are feeling angry, hurt or upset, try sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or family member. It's easier to move past conflicts when you have sounding boards at your disposal. You don't necessarily have to talk to someone who was involved in the conflict, just share your feelings openly and honestly. I personally use a journal to help release my feelings. By getting it out of your mind and off your chest, you're able to find peace within your heart. Be careful not to turn the conversation into attacking the other person. Seek resolutions instead.
• Look for the positives. There are always positive things that come from every situation, even the bitterest of all conflicts. For example, you may have realized the importance of communication, interpersonal relationships, or forgiveness. When you can find something positive about a past situation you'll find that coping with conflict is much easier.
• Focus on forgiveness. When you focus on forgiveness, the pain associated with conflict can dissipate. After all, we all make mistakes from time to time. When you realize that we live in an imperfect world it'll be easier to let go of the hurt feelings and anger associated with the conflict. Forgiveness does not say the other person’s actions were all right. Instead, you free yourself from living in painful resentment from the situation.
For over 25 years in the health care profession, Lisa Birnesser has studied stress relief techniques and have helped hundreds of people reduce stress in their lives. Lisa specializes in stress management coaching by helping people do what matters most every day.