by Gideon 

October 7, 2021

how to manage conflict in relationships

Whether you want to manage a team, enhance relationships with friends and family, or strengthen your marriage, learning how to manage conflict in relationships with open communication is critical.

Why is that?

Because ultimately, when you sit down with someone to resolve a problem, ensuring that you are on the same page is critical to your ability to communicate effectively, collaborate effectively, and finally resolve your differences.

To accomplish that, however, a deeper grasp of what conflict is and how open communication may be used to manage conflict in relationships will be critical.

Bear in mind that reading about conflict is not the same thing as experiencing conflict.

While you can think objectively and calmly about conflict now, when you’re in conflict, emotions tend to take control and rational thought is frequently set aside.

Thus, having a firm grasp on conflict and open communication as principles can potentially better prepare you to manage conflict in relationships if and when the occasion arises.

With that in mind, we must address two primary questions:

What Exactly Is Conflict?

As previously stated, even the happiest personal and professional relationships experience conflict from time to time.

The majority of conflict occurs as a consequence of someone failing to respond correctly to another’s behaviour, as a result of disagreement or misunderstanding, or as a result of unmet needs or expectations.

These events occur frequently in any human interaction, and as such, despite our best attempts to avoid conflict, it is sometimes inescapable.

However, this is not always a problem.

What is more critical to analyse is not the presence of conflict, but the nature of the conflict that does occur.

According to the bulk of research, what genuinely distinguishes successful relationships from others is not the occurrence of conflict, but rather how conflict is managed in such relationships.

Numerous relationship specialists agree that HOW we resolve conflict, rather than the fact that we experience conflict from time to time, tends to be the determining factor in the long-term quality of relationships.

Thus, in order to understand how to manage conflict in relationships, it’s critical to first understand the nature of conflict in relationships.

Finally, having conflict in our relationships isn’t nearly as significant as how we manage that conflict.

One is inherent in the human experience, while the other is associated with the quality of relationships we form as a result.

What Is The Definition Of Open Communication?

By definition, communication is the transfer of data from one location to another.

Communication permits you to transmit your feelings and desires to another person in a partnership.

Not only can communication assist in reaching your needs, but it may also aid in maintaining a relationship’s connection.

Open communication is exactly what it sounds like: confronting an issue head-on and discussing potential solutions freely.

Ultimately, regardless of how you slice it, nothing is gained by allowing an issue to fester because no one wants to discuss it.

Conflict avoidance may be detrimental in the long run, even if it temporarily alleviates some discomfort and tense sensations.

You’d be surprised how many disagreements can be addressed just by sitting down and communicating openly and respectfully with another person.

Open communication implies that the dialogue will be free of accusation, threat, or argument.

Rather than that, it is an opportunity for all parties to peacefully express their viewpoints and be heard, with the ultimate goal of settling any lingering differences.

Despite the benefits of managing conflict in relationships through open communication, many people avoid this approach due to the associated discomfort.

Sitting down with someone and having open communication is oftentimes quite difficult because there are some topics that are difficult to discuss.

For a variety of reasons, the majority of us find certain events or subjects difficult to discuss.

Sometimes it’s difficult to talk about something because it’s painful or uneasy.

For instance, some individuals have difficulty expressing their emotions, so they avoid conversations that might cause them to talk too much about how they feel about something.

Occasionally, it is simply a matter of not understanding how to frame an issue.

Additionally, it is frequently the difficult topics that cause the most pain, and as a result, we opt to avoid them.

Tips For How to Manage Conflict in Relationships with Open Communication

Select the most appropriate strategy

A face-to-face confrontation is not always the best course of action for every individual or scenario.

For instance, some people prefer to communicate via phone or online chat.

As a result, the first consideration when considering how to manage conflict in relationships with open communication is what approach is most suited in the current situation.

You may be unclear on how to determine the most acceptable approach at this point, but there is a basic rule of thumb you can follow.

Ultimately, whichever approach makes you and the other party most comfortable is the best way to resolve the conflict, as long as you are able to express your concerns, thoughts, perspectives, and expectations freely.

The objective here is to avoid putting anyone involved in a bind or making them nervous.

This is especially critical if you are in a position of responsibility for them.

You want to ensure that you’re collaborating to solve the problem, not manipulating or attacking them.

The reality is that when someone feels unsafe, their odds of engaging in open communication decrease.

Therefore, it is in the relationship’s best interest for you to respect and accommodate the boundaries of all people involved.

Failure to do so will almost certainly put an end to the discussion even before it begins.

Keep in mind to concentrate on the issue, not the person.

Another crucial tip for managing conflict and relationships with open communication is to remember to focus on the issue, not the person.

When emotions run high during challenging conversations, it’s natural to divert your emphasis away from the issue at hand and towards the person.

From there, it’s simply a short step to disregarding the problem and focusing only on the individual.

Unfortunately, this just serves to exacerbate the relationship’s damage.

Therefore, take the time to evaluate what you need to do to avoid blaming or putting down the individual.

This will just serve to shut them down to anything you say, so keep your focus on the behaviour or topic at hand without raising your voice.

Again, this is far easier in principle than it is in practice, but it is essential.

Consider implementing an open-door policy.

You will be able to communicate effectively with others if you demonstrate your willingness to engage with them at any moment.

As a parent, this can be quite tough at times due to children’s immaculate timing.

Unfortunately, as parents, we regularly fall into the trap of disregarding this open-door policy at home with people closest to us.

However, establishing an open-door policy is critical for conflict resolution since it allows you to spend significantly more time face-to-face with people in general.

As a result, the more you promote an open-door policy, the fewer disputes you will encounter as a result of your regular interaction.

This makes it extremely difficult for conflicts to fester, as you are constantly resolving them automatically through increased interaction.

Additionally, we tend to trust things that we are exposed to on a regular basis.

It is referred to in psychology as the Mere-Exposure Effect.

It is a psychological phenomenon in which people develop an attachment to objects just by virtue of their familiarity.

Conflict Resolution Is Beneficial for All Relationships

These strategies for how to resolve conflict in relationships apply to all of your relationships, personal and professional. 

No family member, nor coworkers or colleagues, should be made to feel as if their feelings are unimportant.

You’ll develop a much stronger bond with your husband, children, and coworkers if you all agree that you can discuss any subject at any time, without waiting for “the right time.”

If you want your family and coworkers to hear and accept your viewpoints, you must treat them with the same amount of consideration.

This is a critical life lesson that individuals of all ages and professions should learn.

Change Can Take Time

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, while considering how to manage conflict in relationships, keep in mind that change does not occur overnight.

It is completely possible that regardless of how open, honest, and respectful you were in managing conflict, some parties will leave with upset feelings.

It just happens.

However, as long as everyone involved has been handled with respect and the issue has been brought to light, you may now begin working as a team towards a satisfying settlement.

Additionally, the more frequently you employ these methods of conflict resolution, the easier they become.

Rather than skirting a contentious issue, open communication and conflict resolution will become second nature.

It’s therefore worthwhile to take the time to examine what you can do to increase open communication and conflict resolution.

About the author 

Gideon

Gideon is the founder of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a top-50 relationship blog (2021) and top-100 marriage blog (2021) focused on providing healthy relationship advice about love and life. He earned a Master's degree in theological studies before training as a professional counsellor and hypnotherapist (DipProfCouns., DipMSHT.) almost 10 years ago. He is currently pursuing further graduate Psychology studies at Massey University while working as a relationship and dating blogger the majority of the time. He has been married to his wife for over fifteen years and is the father of two children.

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