Ignore Or Engage? Five Tips For Managing Conflict

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 4, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

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?

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Conflict is a natural part of life. We must work together to ensure society functions properly; but we often have opposing needs, divergent opinions, and differing methods of solving problems. When we’re unable to reconcile these differences, we can struggle to get things done.

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. 

Five 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
Ilona Titova/EyeEm

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. Hold a 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. 

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Get support in online therapy

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. 

Therapist reviews

"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.”


Interpersonal conflicts are almost certain to arise at times; but their negative impacts can be limited when you know how to manage them effectively. By utilizing the above strategies, you can address disputes in a healthy, constructive manner. If you’d like the support of a professional as you learn to work through disagreements, consider utilizing an online therapy platform. Connecting with a therapist can be a productive next step toward conflict resolution and mental and emotional wellness.
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