3 Tips to Improve Your Conflict Resolution Skills
Wednesday, October 17 2018 Heidi Green, Psy.D.
Conflict resolution skills are important because interpersonal conflict can be tricky, but there are simple skills you can use to resolve conflict with ease. Recently, I employed my best conflict resolution skills when I accompanied my sister to her wedding dress fitting. Anyone who has planned a wedding knows how stressful it can be. There is so much pressure to put it all together, and emotions can run high. It is helpful to expect some conflict and to be prepared to use healthy conflict resolution skills.
When we arrived at the tailor's shop, they were still sewing together pieces of the dress. Once the dress was on, several problems were apparent: it was too tight in the waist, crushing her rib cage so she couldn't breathe, and the sleeves were so stiff she couldn't raise her arms. If my sister hoped to dance at her wedding, they would need to rebuild the entire bodice. I could see the panic in her eyes. She wanted to ensure she got the dress of her dreams, but she didn't want to have a tearful meltdown or angry rant in the tailor shop.
Conflict Resolution Skills Diffuse Tense Situations
It was the perfect time for us to use our conflict resolution skills. Whenever I find myself in one of these precarious situations, I ask myself three questions developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, creator of dialectical behavior therapy. In her Interpersonal Effectiveness module, Dr. Linehan suggests that we can improve our chances of positive outcomes if we keep three questions in mind:1
- What is the outcome I seek?
- How do I want the other person to feel about me at the end of this interaction?
- How do I want to feel about myself at the end of this interaction?
In our case, the desired outcome was simple: we wanted the wedding dress to fit, be comfortable, and look just the way my sister envisioned it. Once you are clear about your goal, you can determine what behavior choices will most likely end with a positive result.
Respect Yourself and Others to Reduce Conflict
The second question is important because it informs how you are going to present yourself. My sister didn't want to turn into a bridezilla. She wanted the seamstresses to help her happily, not because they were intimidated by her. She hoped to maintain a good relationship with them, so they were motivated to get the dress just right.
Finally, she thought about how she wanted to feel when the interaction was over. My sister knew she would be full of regret if she mistreated people just because she was stressed out. We did not want to feel guilty or embarrassed later. If we were going to leave with our self-respect intact, we needed to treat others with respect as well.
In the end, it worked out perfectly. We both took some deep breaths and asked ourselves these three questions to help us stay composed and grounded. The dress was completed a few days before scheduled and was stunning. Not only did we get our desired outcome, but we felt good for behaving appropriately, and the tailors felt good about their experience with us as well.
The key to interpersonal effectiveness is not to be solely focused on the outcome. There are many ways to achieve a single result, but healthy conflict resolution requires we treat others and ourselves with respect throughout the process. For me, getting the desired outcome feels so much better when I achieve it through healthy, productive dialogue.
- Linehan, Marsha M., DBT Skills Training Manual, Second Edition. The Guilford Press. October 20, 2014.