Resolving Conflicts

November 8, 2017

Two people talking on a grassy field.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

I started to truly have hope for humanity when I had my very first genuine and vulnerable heart-to-heart conversation with my father three years ago. I confronted him about how he left scars in my heart whenever he abused me. He was receptive and expressed remorse and regret. He started opening up to me about how terrible his father was to him. He thought that abusing your kids was the way to raise children. This moment changed my life.

Two people talking on a grassy field.

“SUP” by Tracy Ostmann

The transformation I saw within my father–even if it was a brief moment–made me hopeful for the world. I have always believed that there is good in everyone, and for some, their good is buried underneath all the pain they’ve gone through. I want to be the catalyst to help people heal from their pain and evoke the good in them, which is why I became deeply interested in conflict resolution. I began learning more and more about it by practicing nonviolent communication (NVC), reading about repairing relationships, and from firsthand experience.

I recently had a conflict with a friend and we were both angry and a little resentful toward each other, but by the end of our conversation, there was a mutual understanding and peace from both sides. I used what I learned from the books I’ve read (one of them being “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix), and it worked wonderfully.

What I’ve learned so far about resolving conflicts are the following:

Be curious. It may be difficult to be curious about the other person’s thoughts and feelings if you are upset yourself, but the whole reason of having a conflict between people is that it isn’t just about you, it is about you and the other party. Be curious to understand why the other person has the thoughts and feelings they have and the logic behind their thoughts. Even if it’s just for a second, try to put your feelings aside to be curious about the other person.

Empathize with the other person. Once you are able to understand the logic behind their thoughts and feelings, put yourself in their shoes and see if you can feel what they feel. Understand that feelings are never wrong, and that there is always a reason why they feel the way they do.

Hold space for the other person. I learned that as long as you give people space to make them feel heard and acknowledged, it doesn’t matter what the other person says about you–how much they insult, criticize, or misjudge you. Give them space to say whatever they need to say even though it may be painful and uncomfortable to hear. Once you give them space, their anger and frustrations will melt. It will be as if you are absorbing their anger until they have no more left to throw at you. (Note: I am not saying to tolerate abuse. If you feel that things are getting out of hand, leave the situation immediately.)

Don’t take what they say personally. Hurtful comments that are expressed from the other party should never define who you are. Hurt people tend to say hurtful things just to hurt you back. Don’t completely ignore or disregard what the other person says, but take it with a grain of salt. Only you can decide whether what they’re saying has some truth in it or not.

Be humble. Maybe there was some truth to the criticisms or remarks. There is always room for improvement, so if you believe what they said was true, accept responsibility for your mistakes, apologize, and strive to become better and not make those mistakes again. If you truly believe that it was completely the other person’s fault, remember that they are human too, and humans make mistakes.

Accept the other person’s view. Even if conflicts cannot be not resolved, accepting the other person’s view will bring you peace. Sometimes, there are no solutions to issues. If you can accept the situation for what it is, are able to move on from it, and still want to be in this person’s life, then great–you most likely even deepened the relationship more by accepting them for who they are. It is also okay to accept that there is no solution, move on, and decide that it is best to remove this person from your life.

Forgive the other person. If you’re ready, forgive the other person for their mistakes. Forgiveness takes time, so if you’re not ready, remember that it is okay if you’re not there yet. This is not for the other person; this is more for you to find peace within yourself.

Love yourself. This also ties in with forgiving yourself and realizing that you are human and you make mistakes, too. Remember that a mistake does not define who you are. We are always changing, hopefully for the better. If you completely disagree with what the other person said about you or you feel that what has been done to you is completely unjust, it is okay to be angry. You should always stand up for yourself, and anger is a good way to remind yourself of your worth. However, at the end of the day, remember that anger is never good to hold onto as it can turn into self-loathe and misery.

Let go. In order to free yourself from grudges and anger, you need to let go. A lot of letting go comes after accepting the situation for what it is, whether it can be resolved or not. After having a conflict, our end goal is always peace, and hopefully mutual understanding. If there is no mutual understanding, accept that mutual understanding may never happen, and let it go.

All of this can be done only if there is some respect left for each person. If there is no respect, this will not work. I’ve had my experience in this situation as well.

I know that once I study and learn more about conflict resolution, there will be so much more I can add on here. But for now, this is what I learned and what has worked for me.

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