THE DOS AND DON’TS OF DEALING WITH CONFLICT



Conflict in relationships – whether between friends, family, colleagues or partners – can be stressful, especially for those who don’t like drama. Follow these tips to stay out of the war zone!


Conflict comes in many forms. Maybe there’s a colleague who makes inappropriate remarks in the office or – even more irritating – takes credit for your work. Or your mother-in-law thinks she knows better than you when it comes to raising your children. Or a friend takes advantage of your good nature, and instead of speaking up you suffer in silence and get frustrated while you’re boiling on the inside.

The scenarios for conflict are endless, and almost every relationship has room for disagreement or tension at times. For many of us, the fear of confrontation often outweighs our desire to resolve the disagreement. However, avoiding a problem doesn’t make it go away. In fact, it will keep popping up until you deal with it.

DON’T BE A PUNCHBAG
Sara Williams,* who works for an accounting firm, has always been afraid of confrontation but when conflict at work escalated she learnt the importance of dealing with it. ‘We got a new supervisor,’ she says, ‘who had little respect for anyone and was often rude. She thought nothing of swearing at colleagues when they made her angry. I was too scared to say anything so I just kept quiet whenever she was unpleasant. Some people complained to our manager but nothing was done. Then, one day she screamed at me and I burst into tears. It was only then that our manager took it seriously and called her into the office. After he intervened she changed her behaviour.'

SELF-AWARENESS IS KEY
Managing conflict starts with self-awareness and taking back your power, rather than letting it reach the point where you’re left feeling emotional. Find the courage to be assertive without being aggressive. You can overcome the fear of confrontation by taking ownership of and responsibility for the role you play in maintaining the conflict, says Dalene Rathnum, a social worker who heads the Family Life Centre's Employee Assistance Programmes in Johannesburg.




‘You need to be aware of the emotions you feel and what triggers them,’ she says. Wilma Calvert, a community counsellor and mediator for the centre, agrees. She adds that you also need to be aware of your own frustration when caught in a conflict, and to communicate clearly and defuse potentially volatile situations as soon as possible. She recommends asking yourself how you express your anger and how well you communicate your needs and wants, as well as examining the ways in which conflict-avoidance is affecting your life and work environment.

‘Then,’ says Rathnum, ‘you need to hone your listening skills, which play an important part in communication. When you have empathy for the other person, you’ll be able to start solving the problem. Before speaking, weigh up the different options on what to say and the pros and cons of each, then choose the right time to confront the person.’

Calvert adds that when someone shouts, for example, and you feel your own anger rising, instead of reacting with anger say something like, ‘I cannot continue with this conversation now. I’d prefer to discuss this later in a calm manner.’



“There are ‘five Ss’ that contribute to how well we deal with conflict or challenges – Sleep, Stress, Sustenance, Substances and Sickness.”


KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS
Calvert says there are ‘five Ss’ that contribute to how well we deal with conflict or challenges – Sleep, Stress, Sustenance, Substances and Sickness. ‘When we manage them in a holistic manner,’ she says ‘they can provide us with resilience in order to cope better. So it’s important to sleep well, manage stress, eat balanced meals, use alcohol moderately or avoid it altogether, have regular medical check-ups and get enough exercise.’

She adds that ‘Negative ideas consume our thinking during or after conflict.’ The trick is to challenge them instead of letting them control our behaviour. ‘Stop,’ says Calvert, ‘breathe slowly for a few seconds and respond, instead of reacting.’
*Not her real name

By Vida Li Sik 


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THE DOS AND DON’TS OF DEALING WITH CONFLICT THE DOS AND DON’TS OF DEALING WITH CONFLICT Reviewed by Jet Club on March 06, 2019 Rating: 5

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