Conflicts are natural in healthy relationships. If the attitude is correct, conflicts are a sign of growing together as a couple or in a friendship.
Solutions begin with attitude
Attitude towards conflict is the first and most important thing to address. Why? Because persons attitude to conflicts often determines the outcome. A study of college students done by Metts & Cupach (1990) shows that students in close relationships that believed that conflicts were destructive were much more likely to ignore, neglect, or even end the relationship as soon as they experienced conflicts, instead of seeking solutions and dealing with the conflicts.
What is conflict?
There are three essential things to understand about conflicts before we start to deal with the desired outcome.
First, conflicts can only exist if BOTH parts in the relationship are aware of it. If the issue is not addressed, there is no conflict. It can be tough for a partner to satisfy the needs for resolution in a partner if the partner does not mention the struggle.
Second, the nature of conflicts is that two parties goals are contradictory. Alder & Proctor (2014) write: “People often fail to see mutually satisfying solutions to their problems. As long as they perceive their goals to be mutually exclusive, a conflict exist.” The mutually satisfactory is something I will return to. However, prior to mutual satisfaction is acknowledging the interdependence there is in a relationship. An appropriate attitude is that “we are in this together.”
The third essential thing to have an understand of is that contradictory goals prevents each other’s goals from happening. If they didn’t, there would not be a conflict to begin with.
4 first styles of conflict
I will brush over the first four because I want to be brief.
1) Lose-Lose conflicts.
The result of this conflict style is avoidance. Not dealing with the conflict reveal a negative attitude towards dealing with conflicts because there are no positive outcomes of them.
2) Lose-Win conflicts.
Accommodating conflicts are conflicts where we just give up and let the other person “be right” so we have peace. Again – it is not a positive attitude towards problem-solving, and it has a tendency to leave us bitter or indifferent. Letting the other person “win” can result in both parties losing at relationships.
3) Win-Lose conflicts.
The opposite of the accommodating conflicts are the competing conflicts. These types of conflicts show high regard for ourselves and our opinion, but little concern for the other person. Of course, these conflicts are most damaging to romantic relationships. In parenting relationships, it can be much different. However, individuals with negative connotation regarding conflicts often recall attempts to resolve conflicts this way, but ending the conflict in avoidance.
4) Partial Lose-Lose conflicts.
The compromise. Often the compromise is viewed as the ideal solution, but allowing compromise, requires that both parties have to lose something. It happens, that the compromise is the best solution, but before settling at compromise we should strive for better.
The ideal solution
The solution we ought to strive for is the Win-Win conflict style. This conflict style is also called the collaboration. “Collaborators show a high degree of concern for both themselves and others. Rather than trying to solve problems “my way” or “your way,” their focus is on “our way”” (Adler & Proctor, 2014).
This conflict style comes down to satisfaction; what is the most satisfying solution for both parts. It requires that both parts actively participate in the solution to accomplish both parties goals. It is because of collaboration conflicts can be very healthy in relationships.
How to make it happen
The Win-Win solution can seem over rationalized, but it is possible to make it happen. Here are five easy tools to arrive at a Win-Win solution:
1) Be ready! Make sure both parties are ready and willing to find a solution. If needed, set a date to talk about it.
2) Communication! Talk about the problem and how it affects each party. If needed apply the perception checking tools from the last blog I wrote.
3) Listen! Consider the other person’s point of view.
4) Negotiate! Fair negotiation happens when the conflict is properly identified and defined. Look at possible solutions, or even alternative solutions to what seems obvious. Agree on the best solution. It appears simple, but this can put you in the winning seats.
5) Follow up! When the most appealing solution is found, try it. Make sure to follow up to check that it truly is the best solution.
It is normal, and it can be healthy in relationships to have conlicts. The Win-Win solution is not always possible, but relationships that strive to try collaboration will adopt a positive attitude towards conflicts.