Let's talk about conflict!

Whether we like it or not, conflict is a part of human interaction.  At some point or another, we will find that we have differences with family, friends or someone at work.  The way in which we handle these differences will determine the outcome.  We can choose to run away from conflict all together which will only lead to emotional, social or medical difficulties, or we can choose to face it head on, deal with it and use it as a learning experience.  Although conflict is quite normal in any work or social setting, the challenge lies in how we choose to manage it.

Running away from the conflict situation hoping that it will resolve itself, is not going to change the situation!  In fact, it will do the opposite…. Conflict tends to escalate if not dealt with in a timely manner.  It is always a wise idea to confront conflict head on and resolve the issue promptly, especially in a work setting, to avoid the issue festering, growing to something bigger and causing resentment between workers.

What causes conflict?

There are a multitude of reasons that people get into conflict situations, however the root cause of most conflict stems down to either a lack of communication or the inability to control one’s emotions.  Other reasons include:

  • Lack of empathy
  • Making assumptions
  • Intolerance
  • Needs not being met
  • Lack of compromise
  • Desire for power
  • Prejudice
  • Self interest
  • Ignorance
  • Having a bad day

What can we do to handle conflict situations more effectively?

  1. Pause and ground yourself:  It’s true, when we feel flustered and overwhelmed, we can’t often think straight and we may end up saying something that we later regret.  In the heat of the moment, when you are feeling swamped with emotions and thoughts, it’s a great idea to take a moment to yourself, take a deep breath and try to calm yourself down.  A great strategy, is to inhale, hold your breath for 5 seconds, and exhale slowly.  Another good way to release tension is to stretch your body, or go for a brisk walk.
  2. Non-Verbal Communication: It’s important when we are in a conflict situation and we are feeling flooded by emotions, to become mindful of our nonverbal communication as this can often give off very strong messages. Be aware of your facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language to ensure that what you are saying and how you are projecting yourself physically is aligned.
  3. Avoid Violence: Physical or verbal abuse in never acceptable.  It is very common that when people are in a heated debate about something that they feel strongly about, that it could lead to physical or verbal abuse.  If someone starts to display acts of violence, ask them to stop as you will need to walk away from this situation.  If the situation escalates further, call security or the police.
  4. Reflect Empathy: When we show the other person empathy, we are letting them know that we are putting ourselves in their shoes and that we are trying to understand where they are coming from. This is the single most powerful communication skill that someone can display.  It allows the other person to feel heard and it diffuses conflict. It does not mean that you must agree with their perspective, but its showing them that you can understand their feelings.  For example, “I can understand you would feel hurt and angry by what was said”.
  5. Be assertive: Being assertive means that we ask for what we need. It also means that we don’t say yes to something that we are not entirely happy about, and that we are open to negotiation and compromise. Assertive communication involves articulating a grievance in a respectful way by expressing our feelings clearly, in a non-threatening manner, directly and appropriately.  Avoid being passive (not setting boundaries), aggressive (hostile or entitled) or passive aggressive (not responding to a conflict situation) as this will only negatively aggravate the situation.


Next time you’re faced with a confronting conflict situation, please try to address it as soon as possible. Resolution toward a conflict situation can be found where there is understanding, compromise, forgiveness, empathy, compassion, being an active listener and generally where there is a desire to do so.   If you or anyone you know needs help dealing with a conflict situation either at work or personally, please get in contact with one of our Pure Insights team on info@pureinsights.com.au or 1300 796 640, who would be happy to discuss some strategies with you!


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