How to deal with conflict
Conflict is inevitable and unfortunately, for many, it can be quite common around the holiday period. In this article, I share some advice on how to amicably deal with both in-the-moment and ongoing issues.
Conflict is an unpleasant experience that everyone goes through – whether it arises in the moment, or as an ongoing issue that hasn’t yet resolved itself. Additionally, because conflicts are common, we have an opportunity to prepare for them – especially around Christmas time.
There is a lot of pressure around the holiday period, and the gap between expectations and reality can lead to frustration and, potentially, conflict. Carrying an awareness of the stress of the season can help you to manage tense situations before they arise.
Dealing with conflict
Let’s start by examining spontaneous disputes that arise out of nowhere – often in social situations (like a Christmas party). In that scenario, the way things progress will depend at least in part on your ability to be resilient and adapt in the moment. But there’s also a checklist of questions you can ask yourself that will help you to evaluate the situation.
1. Is this issue important to me?
Take a step back and assess things objectively. Is this really an important issue? Maybe someone has brought up politics, or something that’s in the news. At that point, you need to decide whether it’s something that needs to be pursued right now.
2. What does this person mean to me?
Are you talking to your brother-in-law, where you can possibly keep things cordial? Or are you talking to your mother, where it’s something that needs to be resolved immediately? Depending on your relationship, it might pay dividends to work through the issue in the moment. Otherwise, you may be better served by changing the topic and steering the conversation away from potential areas of conflict.
3. Does this need to be resolved right now?
Many factors will impact this decision. It might be late at night when tempers are frayed. There might be children around. If it’s a festive event, there might be alcohol involved. Once you’ve assessed the setting at hand, you can make a choice. Do you try to diffuse the situation? Do you decide to walk away? Or, do you step into the space of conflict? If you choose to enter that space, try and take the emotion away and be practical as well as factual.
4. Is there someone else that can help right now?
Perhaps you can mediate conflict by saying something as simple as, “Hey, why don’t we get a third party to come in?”. To give a light-hearted example, maybe your mum can help to decide who cuts the turkey this year. Sometimes a fresh outlook can defuse potential conflicts before they ever take place.
5. Can I see this issue from their perspective?
If you can use empathy to place yourself in the other person’s position, and vice-versa, you’re more likely to take the heat out of things. By viewing the situation from different angles, you can bring down your emotions and you might just find that the conflict is about something entirely different to what you initially thought.
Dealing with ongoing conflict
Rather than dealing with spontaneous conflict, perhaps you’re in a situation where the same scenario (or person) is likely to flare up every year at the family Christmas event. Maybe one side of the family believes in something different to the other, or so-and-so’s partner is always rude. Whatever it is, you can prepare yourself to handle it adequately.
1. Create a plan
Based on your past experience, you’ll have a sense of what’s coming. Break down what you can expect and have a plan to deal with it. Let’s say it’s someone who always goads you. You need to ask yourself how you’re going to manage that. How are you going to stay calm? Is there a way that you can remove yourself from the environment? Maybe you can discretely approach the host in the lead-up to the event and ask to be seated at a different part of the table. At a minimum, you should always have three ways you can remove yourself from a situation. Try, “I’m sorry, I just need to go to the bathroom.” Or, “Apologies, I’ve just promised Dad that I’d lend a hand.”
2. Practise that plan
Personally, I’ve had a situation where an ex-boyfriend’s mother always made my life difficult with little remarks. I prepared myself for the next encounter and when she made a comment, I was able to let her know that it didn’t make me feel good. You do need to be conscious of whether or not you have the right plan for the right time, though. In talking the steps through with a friend or partner, you may realise that it’s not the right approach for certain situations. Being more aware and ready will increase your confidence and chances of success.
3. Try to let things go
Sometimes you need to learn when to cut your losses and walk away, because not everything is resolvable. I’m a big believer in not carrying toxicity with you, and in minimising the role of people who bring toxicity into our lives. Focus on what you can control. Maybe you can try and let go in the moment, or agree to disagree on whatever the issue is. If possible, you could all decide to put your differences aside for the sake of Christmas time.
Be at peace with your efforts
You need to find some sense of closure with your efforts. It’s essential you reassure yourself that you’ve done what you can while keeping a priority on your own wellbeing. It can be difficult, but sometimes you might need to take a step back from a relationship that’s causing stress and conflict.
Relationships aren’t always forever, and we all go through different life phases. At various points in your life, you may find yourself spending time with other people – and that’s okay. If you’re dealing with friendship or family circles that are interrelated, try to find a respectful way to communicate your need for space. Do your best to be mature and strive to avoid burning bridges.
Originally published on www.onelife.aiavitality.com.au on December 19, 2018.
Alisa Camplin is an Olympic Gold Medalist, in-demand Keynote Speaker, Corporate Ambassador, and Human Performance Consultant who delivers results-driven Resilience and Human Performance Training and Development Programs. Connect with Alisa.