Tips for Managing Conflict
Wendy Rubinyi, Instructional Design Specialist — Independent Contractor; Minnell L. Tralle, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency; and Heather M. Lee, Project Manager — Extension Center for Family Development
Everyone experiences conflict from time to time. During a stressful situation, like a divorce or separation, conflict can become even more prevalent. When you experience conflict, there are often simple strategies you can use to reduce the magnitude or minimize the negative effects of the conflict. Follow these tips when dealing with conflict.
- Don't fight to win. Nobody wins when you do. Remember you are fighting to solve the problem, not to win. Be willing to negotiate or give in when necessary.
- Be sure that you understand exactly what the problem is. If you are not sure why you are having a conflict, discuss it.
- Take care of a problem when it comes up. Don't let it get too big to handle. Even if the problem seems small, if you don't deal with it at the time it happens, the problem only gets bigger.
- Talk about only one conflict at a time. Don't bring up all the old problems that have happened in the past. Stick to the problem that you are having at the moment.
- Don't blame others for problems you are having with someone else. If you are mad at your brother, don't yell at your best friend. Directly tell each person what is bothering you.
- Think before you speak. If you say mean things to your family or friends or speak sarcastically to them even though you are just teasing, you are really hurting them. If you have something constructive to say, be sure that you say it in a way that will be helpful and not harmful.
- Never strike another person to get your way. Physical violence or abuse (hitting, punching, kicking, or slapping) is never acceptable behavior.
- Try writing down your feelings. If the person you are having the conflict with will not discuss the problem, or you are not comfortable enough to talk with him or her about it, write a letter. You can decide later whether you want to mail it. Even though you aren't able to talk it over with the other person, you will understand more about how you feel when you have read your words over again.
- Listen to what the other person has to say. Each person involved has his or her own point of view and should have the chance to express it.
- When the fight is over, drop it. Forgive and forget. Don't keep bringing up the fight or hold on to your anger once an argument is over, even if it was not resolved the way you wanted.
Clarke University. (n.d). Tips for managing conflict.
Michigan State University Extension. (2012). Conflict resolution: Five simple tips for handling a difficult situation.
Utah State University Extension (2012). Effective communication skills: Resolving conflicts.
Managing Anger in Conflict — If you can keep a handle on the anger that you feel during conflict, it may help minimize the effects of that conflict. Everyone in your family will benefit.
Working Through a Conflict (371 K PDF) — While conflict management is rarely easy, there are some established conflict management steps that can help work through conflict issues. Use this worksheet to guide you and the other parent through the process of identifying and discussing issues that arise during the family transition process and beyond.