Most people dread arguments, power struggles, and the silent treatment. Exploring and resolving differences are skills as important as the 3Rs and the skills least likely to be talked about. Avoiding pain doesn’t make it go away. Instead , when we explore conflict, we paradoxically experience less conflict and strengthen our relationships...not pull them apart.

Conflict involves at least two people committed to their respective positions and afraid that their needs won’t get met. Many people believe their only choice is to fight or flight. When we're afraid and angry, many of us forget who we are and what's important to us. So, we take positions thinking that's the best way to protect our needs. Unfortunately, taking positions drives us further apart!

Power is having a say in getting our needs met. Power is trusting that our needs matter and that we can effectively meet our needs. When we take positions, our energy is focused on criticizing and judging rather than on strategies to meet our needs. If we choose to focus our thoughts on who’s right or wrong, we risk eroding trust and open communication. Hostility replaces goodwill and creativity. There are effective ways to find compassionate solutions to everyday challenges. There is a win-win solution that empowers us, maintains dignity, and creates more cooperation and respect with each other.

"Did you ever notice how difficult it is to argue with someone who is not obsessed with being right?" Wayne W. Dyer

Best Practices for Conflict Exploration in 4 Steps

Rather than focus on 'resolution', focus on 'exploration', learning, and understanding. When you choose that consciousness, you invite curiosity and creativity.

Step 1: Take a deep, calming breath or a break. Make sure you are clear about what you value and need. Get help from an objective listener with this step if you’re triggered by what the other person is saying. When you’re ready, prepare yourself to understand by imagining yourself in the other person’s story and ask lots of questions.

Step 2: Don't take what anyone says or does personally.
Everything we do and say is an attempt to meet our needs. Try not to fix anything. Instead, explore the very important and valuable reasons we do the things we do. If you could imagine the situation from 30,000 feet, what would you see?

Step 3: What are everyone’s needs, how are you reacting to that, and what values are important to you about that? Seek to understand and value everyone’s different perspectives. How will you be understood and valued? Everyone matters.

Step 4: When you both know that you understand each others' points of view, you'll notice a shift to lightness and resolution. When everyone has had their say and is fully heard and understood, allow everyone’s natural creative resources to co-create a mutually satisfying solution.

“The more we hear them, the more they’ll hear us...I’ve learned that I enjoy human beings more if I don’t hear what they think...only hearing what’s going on in their hearts and not getting caught up with the stuff in their heads.” Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD.

If you are willing and able to explore conflict and hear everyone’s needs, the process of resolution looks pretty much the same although the end result is unknown. If the conflict is too intense to see the forest from the trees, consider the help of a neutral coach or therapist who can listen when you can’t. I do. I’ve learned how conflict can strengthen our relationships...not pull them apart. I can show you how too.

“The secret of life is three words: change through relationship.” J. Krishnamurti

"True wisdom is realizing that we know nothing and being open to discover, moment by moment." Naomi Aldort.

Author's Bio: 

Wendy McDonnell, Hons. B.Sc., CLC, is a Certified Family Communications Coach with training in Psychology, Nonviolent Communication, Collaborative Divorce, Grief and Bereavement, Reiki, and teaching. If your kids are driving you nuts, and your partner is right there with them, visit and receive your gift with a newsletter subscription: 10 Simple Actions you can do today to bring more peace into your life! Free preview sessions and group coaching available.