The Art of Conflict

Conflict is a part of every relationship. From the friendship side all the way up to an intimate relationship. People do not see eye to eye and at times that will cause something to pop up. It is our choice in how we handle that situation. Do you clap back with anger and hurt or do we try to see all sides of the situation?

Before we can even get to a resolution we have to understand why each side feels the way they do. From there we need to address what it was that sparked this feeling, and the you can address how to resolve it. The key point here is that it involves communication. Without it, the whole thing falls apart.

How can you learn to navigate conflicts to get better results with your relationships? Let’s take a look at this and see how we can change our perspective.

People are people

At any point in your life, you are guaranteed to be carrying some type of baggage. What is that baggage, you might ask? Baggage, in this case emotional baggage, are unresolved emotional issues, stressors, and difficulties that continue to take up space in our minds. Those issues have an affect on all of our current interactions and relationships. Emotional abuse is a big one for this type of issue but so are the smaller things like how people interact with you or you them. All of them leave a lasting impression on us that colors our next engagement.

It is up to us to deal with these issues, however we can. There are good ways and bad ways.

Some issues are harder to approach than others. Physical trauma from loved ones or strangers leave an impact on us that is harder to process, if we can at all. But there are others that we can manage more. You interactions and reactions to people are one of them. Ultimately, we have to remember that we cannot use our baggage as a reason for what we do, it needs to be the reason we try to do it differently.


Many of us enter into a relationship on the pretense it is perfect. Maybe the guy we found is exactly what we are looking for or the woman seems to tick off all of our boxes. As the relationship builds we start to see that the other person has many sides to them and they may not all be as perfect as we initially thought. It is up to us in how we react.

I am not going to give you some BS that says you can fix all your issues by doing X, Y, or Z, because that isnt exactly true. But people are different, different likes, desires, and drive. Many times some of those things will irritate us. But more so, the reality is that it is the small things that will cause our conflicts. He may leave his underwear and socks at the foot of the bed every day. Maybe you put dishes in the sink to wash later. Or maybe it is that you wait until after breakfast to brush your teeth so you kiss your partner with morning breath. Whatever it is, there can be a conflict.

Are these the types of things that should bring a relationship to its very end? No, leave that for the bigger ones, like trust or worse. Learning that will give us the clarity we need to approach things differently.

New Attitude

Ask most people that know me and they will probably say that I do have a tendency to blow a situation up further than it was intended. My ability to take offense is unmatched by many, but I have been working on it. One of the things I have learned in my therapy and with my current boyfriend is to distance myself from the situation a little and see if I still feel the same after I calm down some. Then, we can discuss the issue more and with a more clear approach.

Since this topic is more about relationships, I will focus on my current one. If Karl says or does something that seems to rub me the wrong way, I try to look at it a little differently. The first thing I do is remind myself that I love him and how great he has been with me. Then I move to why does this bother me so much? If it is really trivial, he didnt respond to a question i asked the way I expect, I see it for that and let it go. However, if it is a bigger issue that I cant seem to let go, I will table it for the moment to see if maybe my feelings are driving it more. Usually when I come back to it later I realize I overreacted.

There are times where even then I am still bothered by the situation. That is when I decide to go back to him to discuss it. Again, because communication is important. He needs to know I am upset and why, so its not some HUGE rift between us that causes other unrelated issues.

Something’s got to give

This may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but how a conflict resolves can greatly impact the nature of the rest of your relationship. When you are entering into a conflict, think about the outcome you want or is best for the situation and parties involved and work towards that.

If you truly love the person you are with, then you want that relationship to continue. It is time to find a mutual understanding or mutual place of resolution and work to get there. How do you do that?

First let’s look at three possible outcomes to a conflict.

1.Resolution is good for one person, but not the second 

This is your classic win/lose situation. Only one person can win and it usually isnt beneficial. One will get what they want and the other leaves hurt, resentful, or still angry. This will only cause bigger problems now and later. This is not a win, in the real sense of the word. 

2.Outcome is bad for both involved.

The next option is bad for both people involved. No resolution can be found and both cant get past their feelings. Usually the result of stubborn parties on both side, neither wanting to see the other’s point of view and as such wont give in. This is the most common for relationship that break up.

3.Resolution is found that works for both

This seems to be the more rare of the outcomes, but is possible. Both parties walk away being heard and feel the situation is resolved. They learn from their mistakes and grow to do better in the future. This comes from treating the situation with respect for the other person, genuinely wanting to hear what the other has to say, and a strong desire to keep the relationship alive.

Which is the outcome you want to word towards and how can you get to it?

Bridge over troubled water

Very few people like conflict. It’s disruptive and can leave us feeling emotionally vulnerable. Even worse, it can lead to an end of a good relationship over small matters. If it’s a bad relationship, then it can often put it to bed. Whichever is the situation, it is always good to have better plans to meet challenges we face.

So what are some good ways to navigate a conflict to get the desired results? Let’s take a look:

1.Eliminate relationship disturbances

Okay, admittedly you are sitting there saying to me, at the very moment, that you cannot eliminate every disturbance in a relationship. You are correct, but you both can work to eliminate as many as possible. What are those disturbances you can work on? Work on removing or reducing emotions that will get in the way of a conflict resolution. Those emotions are hurt, anger, and resentment. They are driven from a selfish mindset and will stop resolution in its tracks. 

Hurt can cause you to resort to name calling to hide the fact you feel hurt by the person. Address what caused the hurt and see if it is valid for you. Anger is a big one and there is a reason why they equate it with seeing red. When you are angry, you are acting from a place of hurt and you, typically, want others to feel it. You don’t listen, you only act. Resentment is what happens after the first two set in.You begin to resent hte person for having subjected you to these feelings. At this point, you are beyond listening to reason.

Avoid name calling or other hurtful comebacks.

2.Commit to a win-win resolution.

As you are starting to talk about the issue, make sure you both vocalize the outcome you want. If they don’t fully align, work to find one that is mutually beneficial. Then no matter what, stay the course to get there.

Here you both need to be motivated and open to change. Without that one vital part, you cannot get the desired resolution. Keep the dialog flowing without those disturbances that can interrupt it.

3.Actively listen to both sides

Sure you know how you feel and you may even be right in guessing how the other feels, but you never truly know until you actually listen to them. Not just listening, but listening actively. 

What is active listening?

It means to truly listen to the other person’s point of view, do not interrupt them, pay attention to what is said, and process it. So that the other person knows you are actually listening, try restating the issue in what it means to you. This asks for clarity as well as proves you were listening. 

Be sure to ask open-ended questions for things you do not understand. Keep eye contact and provide adequate enough silence between talks to make sure the other person has finished. When you respond, restate what they said and how you understand it.When you explain your side, be sure to use statements that start with ‘I’. I feel.. I need… and etc.

4.Working towards the goal

Now that you have removed emotion from the situation, stated that you both agreed as an outcome, and actively listen to both sides, you are in a place to start the work towards the goal. Actually, you have done the hard part already. 

This is the time you outline how you can navigate or avoid this type of situation in the future. Talk about what triggered it and how it can be improved or how you can not be so triggered going forward. 

Don’t be afraid to state you were wrong, even if you weren’t at fault for the situation, you are at fault for how you reacted. That was fully in your realm of control. Next time you will have the benefit of this situation to guide you how to handle when you take offense to something that may be innocuous.

Don’t play games

While it is true that we cannot avoid every conflict that comes along, we can change how we approach them and how they affect us. It is a lesson you can use to navigate any relationship from friendship, to business, to intimate ones. Knowing why you react the way you do is key in understanding how to navigate future situations. With practice, you can have disagreements and keep right along moving to healthy and positive relationships.

Do you have any tricks you use for navigating conflicts in your life? How did you navigate those with people you were dating? Were they healthy outcomes or bad? Let me know in the comments below. Remember that your experiences could be the very foundation for someone else to build a stronger one on their own.

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