Ignore Or Engage? 5 Tips For Managing Conflict
Disagreements, arguments, and tension can arise in a variety of contexts. Conflict can occur in romantic relationships, business dealings, and friendships. And while it is a normal part of life, it can create several challenges if it isn’t addressed. Unresolved conflict can lead to resentment, anger, and mental health challenges. But when you develop healthy ways to navigate a dispute, you can solve problems, better connect with those around you, and engage in meaningful, honest conversations about the issues that matter most to you. If you struggle to find solutions when you experience contentious situations, there are several strategies that may help. In this article, we’re discussing what conflict management is and how you can utilize it to nurture healthy, productive relationships.
What Is Conflict Management?
To avoid this, we need to know how to navigate disputes successfully. Conflict management can facilitate compromise and help us avoid impasses. In general, includes the use of a variety of processes, tools, and skills to find productive and respectful ways to manage disagreements.
Of course, there’s rarely one way to manage a conflict. Disagreements can look different depending on the context, and something that might cause conflict in someone else’s life may not matter as much to you. With this reality in mind, it’s helpful to consider how your personal history and temperament might influence your approach to conflict, before, during, and after a disagreement.
Ultimately, conflict management skills can come in handy at all stages of a dispute. The ability to understand and respond to opposing perspectives and goals is an invaluable skill—one you may continue to develop for the rest of your life.
5 Conflict Management Strategies
Successfully navigating a dispute typically requires patience, understanding, and effective communication. Whether you’re anticipating a disagreement or simply want to feel more prepared for possible setbacks, the following five strategies can help you manage conflict in your life.
1. Address The Situation Directly
Disagreements can be uncomfortable, and many people cope with them by circumventing the situations in which they occur. However, avoidance can delay the implementation of solutions that might alleviate tension, and it can instead exacerbate conflict. For example, if you and a coworker disagree about the best approach to completing an important project, failing to compromise may result in serious consequences.
In some situations, it can be healthy to postpone dealing with an issue until you have more time to gather additional information and reflect on what you’d like to say, especially if it’s not a pressing or urgent issue.
But addressing the situation directly can help you avoid difficult emotions and worsening tension. The following strategies can help you manage conflict in this way.
2. Practice Active Listening
Communication is one of the most important components of conflict resolution. If you’re in the middle of a disagreement, listening to the other parties can help you better understand their point of view and identify productive steps you can take to find a solution. Active listening is a more engaged form of listening, in which you ask clarifying questions, sum up the speaker’s main points, and use your body language to signal understanding. Instead of listening only to respond, an active listener takes time to hear the other speaker and understand their feelings, as well as the available facts.
The goal of active listening is to understand what others are saying, while expressing yourself with clarity and honesty. Some of the core elements of active listening include:
Encouraging the other person to continue talking, so you can understand their emotions and perceptions
Asking questions to gather more information and check your own perceptions
Restating what you’ve heard to check your interpretation
Reflecting the other speakers’ message to show understanding of their emotions
Summarizing the conversation and conflict to pull together the main themes, emotions, and possible solutions
Active listening may demand more time and emotional energy, but it can be a more productive form of communication that ensures all parties feel seen, heard, and understood as you work to resolve a conflict.
3. Seek Clarity
Often, our disagreements arise out of uncertainty regarding the primary issue, next steps, or our roles in a situation. In the middle of a conflict, you might even wonder how you arrived at a stalemate. In these moments, it can be important to clarify the issue. To do this, consider taking the following steps:
Sit down with everyone involved and get their perspective. What is each person’s understanding of the conflict?
Informed by these perspectives, assemble the facts of the conflict.
Ask follow-up questions (e.g., “What are the causes and complexities of the conflict?”; “What information will you need to identify a solution?”).
Once you’ve found clarity, you may discover that it’s easier to come up with solutions to your challenges that satisfy each party.
4. Call For A Community Meeting
While some conflicts may involve just two people, many evolve into larger disagreements, with multiple parties affected. After you’ve had a chance to speak to everyone individually and understand their perspectives, it may be time for a community meeting to bring all the facts, opinions, and solutions together.
Importantly, you may not be the primary facilitator of this meeting, nor the person who meets one on one with individuals to get their perspectives. In larger, more complicated conflicts, this point of contact might be someone with more authority or experience in the group; for example, the vice president of your company, or an older adult in your family.
Ideally, this person is someone whose conflict management style aligns with the needs of the group. Especially for a large group or substantial conflict, a person with a collaborative or compromising style may be more likely to find a fair, mutually acceptable solution.
Regardless of who calls the meeting, this gathering can provide a neutral space to understand the entire conflict, define each person’s role, and brainstorm promising solutions.
5. Seek Guidance From A Professional
Some conflicts blow over with minimal intervention, but others may benefit from a third-party perspective. A licensed therapist can offer their expertise, experience, and compassion to help you understand your conflict management style and confront your next obstacle with confidence.
Research suggests that online therapy can help people better work through disagreements in their relationships. In a study on the efficacy of an online therapy program for couples, researchers found that “relationship satisfaction, conflict, emotional support, and breakup potential were significantly improved after treatment”. The study also notes the increased convenience provided by online therapy platforms.
If you’d like to learn more about navigating disagreements or other contentious moments in your life, consider connecting with a licensed therapist through an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. With online therapy, you can discuss strategies for resolving disputes remotely, through video call, voice call, or in-app messaging. BetterHelp works with thousands of qualified mental health professionals—who have a range of specialties—so you’ll have a good chance of matching with someone who can help you work through your specific challenges, whether they’re related to communication, conflict resolution, or other areas of life. Continue reading for reviews of BetterHelp therapists from those who have sought help for similar concerns.
"Brian has helped me immensely in the 5 months since I joined BetterHelp. I have noticed a change in my attitude, confidence, and communication skills as a result of our sessions. I feel like he is constantly giving me the tools I need to improve my overall wellbeing and personal contentment.
"We went into couples counseling not knowing what to expect but hoping for the best. While it took a few sessions to get acclimated to the experience we soon found that Heather made us feel at ease about the process and helped us dive into some of the things we were struggling with. Over several weeks my boyfriend and I have been invested in this process and following Heather's advice as well as reflecting on her insights. We are communicating so much better and have been able to avoid frequent, trivial arguments and spend more time connecting, listening, and working through conflicts. I highly recommend Heather to other couples who may be working through similar issues.”
Commonly Asked Questions About This Topic
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about this topic.
How do you ignore someone naturally?
There is no one “natural” way to ignore someone. There’s always a chance that it could be awkward or that someone gets hurt. At times, it’s best to ask yourself if dealing with the conflict is actually worse than hurting someone’s feelings by refusing them the chance for communication.
It’s true, sometimes people are “annoying,” or you’re busy, or ignoring someone feels better than bad-mouthing them to their face. However, if you’re able to respond and give someone a message expressing your need and speaking from a place of compassion, you may find that you reduce the chance of hurt and get straight to the point.
If you do need a way to ignore someone and feel it would be wrong to talk about the situation with them, there are ways to naturally take distance. Here’s how to ignore someone kindly:
- Use the tips in the article above
- Avoid running into the friend or person at school, work, or in public
- Walk in the other direction if you see them approaching you
- Have a conversation with someone you trust about how the other person’s behavior makes you feel
- Decide on a course of action. Will you block them? Will you reach out in a few weeks? Will you catch up at school when the conflict has worn off and you’ve gone back to your normal lives?
Is it okay to ignore someone?
It’s always okay to have a personal boundary but know that you cannot control whether or not someone gets hurt. It’s okay to feel bad that you’re ignoring someone, as well. Choosing to ignore someone is not an easy decision, but it sometimes needs to be done. However, consider trying to talk through your needs before shutting someone out if you’re not in danger.
If you feel that someone just has an annoying presence or rubs you the wrong way, it’s okay to set an example for how you want to be treated by friends and acquaintances. However, it’s also not hard to talk for a few moments and let someone know that you aren’t ignoring them but need them to take a step back.
For example, here are a few things you can say to a friend that is pushing your boundaries at school and acting with behavior that you don’t like:
- “I don’t like when you act like this around me, and I need you to treat me better if you want to talk about this.”
- “I don’t like your behavior lately, and I need some time to think about what I want.”
- “I’m not ignoring you; I just need space for a while. I’m really busy with my own life right now.”
- “I’m upset that you don’t seem to value my life goals and want me to drop everything at school to hang out with you. I’m a kind person but I need some space to focus on my own life right now. Let’s talk later.”
If a person still doesn’t leave you alone after you have set a boundary, follow the other tips in this article to distance yourself from them. Remember, if a person doesn’t respect your boundaries, they’re not someone who respects you as a person.
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