“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” Dale Carnegie

Conflict happens to the best of us and, depending on how we handle or (or don’t handle it), it can be a healthy and healing experience or an emotionally trying disaster. The problem with conflict is that most of us see it in a negative light as something to be avoided at all costs. And many of us have never learned how to handle it properly, in a healthy and constructive manner. However, conflict can be, not only necessary but also very healthy and educational.

The fact of the matter is that conflict happens as a result of people having unmet expectations that clash with the unmet expectations of others. We communicate inefficiently or sometimes not at all about what we want or need.  People hurt people and people are irrational emotional creatures. But when we can break down and understand the anatomy of conflict ( and understand the process),m we can actually turn conflict into a learning and growing experience.

The book entitled Conflict Resolution: The 8 Vital Principles, by Bill Lewis, breaks down the process of conflict resolution to help us become better at handling the “people problems” in our lives. The first three principles are really the foundation for beginning the resolution process, the groundwork if you will.

  1. Confront the Person (or persons) Immediately and Directly

  2. Speak Directly to Them Rather Than Gossip About Them

  3. Speak Face to Face

Step One: Affirm Your Relationship

At this point, before anything else can take place in terms of resolving relationship or communication issues, it is important to let the other person know that you value the relationship. It may be uncomfortable or even feel awkward to do so, but this must be done if you are hoping to resolve conflict, even when it involves people who are close that you see every day At this point, the nature or substance of the conflict is not important because the focus is on re-establishing the foundation of the relationship.

It is also important to communicate something along the lines of ” There was probably a misunderstanding and perhaps there is something I could have done to prevent this. I would like to know what I can do to make it right” In this way you are turning the table and putting the ownership of the problem on yourself rather than accusing the other person, which means that the other person will be more likely to open up and discuss the situation with you.

Above all, do not skip this most important step because it is the most important step in the process. As Steven Covey taught, people have an “emotional bank account” where negative words/ criticisms are withdrawals and sincere praise and kind words are deposited in the account. Thus, it is important to make a deposit in the emotional bank account before talking about resolution or reconciliation to “balance the account” because if the other person has an emotional deficit, he or she will not likely want to engage in the process.

Step Two: Be Genuine In Trying to Understand the Person

The focus in this step is to genuinely understand where the other person is coming from. You might be tempted to bombard the person with questions, but you should refrain from doing so. You do not want the other person to feel that they are in the middle of an interrogation. Instead, give the other person space to explain in their own way and words. Your job at this point is to listen with intention. What you want to understand, as Steven Covey taught, is their thoughts and feelings.

The best way to do this is by using the Mirroring Technique, which is actually the practice of reflecting back what was actually said so as to confirm what you heard. In fact, if you are not mirroring back their words, then you are not truly listening. During this process, the person doing the listening does the following:


Asks “mirroring” questions to clarify and understand only

Clearly restates the other’s position

Expresses genuine concern to make things right again

It is important to remember that, it is counterproductive to go on the defensive.

“You should empathetically accept that hurt was given and seek to make it right. Hurt is caused by unmet expectations by one or both parties” (p. 47)

What mirroring can do:

Heal Hurts

Release Misunderstandings

Release Mistakes

Build People

Step Three: Present Your Perspective In a Loving Manner

Only after steps one and two have been completed can you move on to step three. This step requires a huge dose of love and patience. You will need to convey your words as lovingly as you can so that they can be received in the same spirit. Otherwise, the other person may perceive your words as hostile and not wish to pursue the discussion. Remember that what the person perceives are feelings and not necessarily the actual words, so you need to convey your message lovingly without any negative undertones.

A keyword in this step is share. In this step, your goal is simply to share information with the objective of seeking resolution. Keep the focus on the goal and do not blame, justify or lecture (we all do these almost automatically). If we get off track and fall into one of these patterns, we can easily risk making withdrawals from the emotional bank account and thereby lose ground. The key here is to let the other person know how you felt. This step of sharing your feelings is very important in the process because the other person needs to hear your side to have a complete picture.

Some things to remember:

Don’t assign motives to the other person

Don’t speak in a way that is attacking

Don’t justify, blame or lecture

Step Four: Own Your Responsibility And Apologize

Hopefully, during the first three steps, you have taken as much respo0nsibility as you can for the conflict. Of course, it is important to do this as honestly and sincerely as possible. Being humble and owning responsibility for whatever you can truthfully own shows the other person that you are acting in good faith with the intent of doing your best to restore the relationship

Why is owning the responsibility so important? It is not only an act of good faith towards the other person; it is also very healing. It sets you free whereas not doing so can hold you prisoner to the situation and the other person. Taking responsibility also builds up your “Trust” bank account with yourself and others. Actions speak louder than words and when people see that you are willing to own your share of the responsibility, they are more open to trusting you.

When you take responsibility, it is equally important to apologize and apologize sincerely from the heart. You can not apologize before you have owned your responsibility, only after. Otherwise, your apology will not be seen as sincere.

Some things to remember:

Stay humble

Take responsibility for your part in the conflict

Aplogize sincerely after owning your part of the responsibility

Step Five: Establish Agreement

The importance of this step is to move the relationship forward in a positive direction. As much as the resolution of the conflict is necessary, it is equally essential to feed the relationship with positive sustaining “food”. No one wants to go through this process over and over. If the relationship is not nourished, it will not just remain the same (or stagnate); it will actually begin to deteriorate again.

At this point, it is helpful to agree on a game plan for how to move forward. Find areas of potential tension/conflict and resolve to put strategies in place to prevent these scenarios in the future. For example, you might agree to give one another the benefit of the doubt, or discuss issues immediately and not let them fester or push them under the rug.

You do not want to repeat negative patterns. Fixing the situation is a very good step, but strengthening the relationship is far better.

Some things to remember:

Agree to avoid repeating the same mistakes

Learn from the conflict

Discuss/brainstorm how to have unity in the future

Turn the conflict into a victory

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Diana Lynne loves to travel, pursue self-improvement and debt-free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and her dog Skye. You can connect with her through livingandstuff.ca