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4 Simple Solutions to End Big Conflicts

By Stacey Feintuch
Reviewed by Susan Ko, Ph.D.
November 06, 2023
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Your son keeps breaking his curfew. You and your spouse can’t decide on where to go for dinner. Your best friend constantly bails on your plans at the last minute. Your work team can’t agree on anything for the big presentation to your boss. Even the most peace-loving person can become embroiled in some type of conflict.

While it can be nice to imagine a life free of all friction and discord, it's also unlikely.

“We all have our own backgrounds, belief systems, insecurities, experiences, and unique situations that lead us to disagree with others,” says Cortney Warren, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor of psychiatry at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Conflicts may be inevitable, but they aren't necessarily a bad thing. Disagreements that lead to discussion can ultimately strengthen relationships. But constantly butting heads with others with no mutually agreed upon resolutions can harm your mental well‑being.

“When conflict is causing substantial consequences to your mental health or the quality of your relationship with someone else—like you’re fighting a lot, feeling bad about yourself, or thinking negative thoughts about them that make it hard for you to be together or stay connected—it’s important to address it instead of letting it fester.”

4 Tips for Resolving Conflicts

Learning how to navigate disagreements and negotiate outcomes that are acceptable to all involved can help lower the temperature of conflicts and preserve everyone's peace.

“It just takes a willingness for anyone involved to get curious, adjust, listen, share, and be kind and honest,” says Rachel Wright, L.M.F.T., a licensed therapist who practices in New York City.

The next time you’re in a conflict, try these expert-recommended tips for finding solutions.

Take Your Emotions Out of the Equation

Wading into a disagreement when your anger and annoyance are at their peak may lead you to say and do things that can make the situation worse, not better. Pausing time to turn down the temperature is a good first step. “Don’t try to talk when you’re really upset,” says Warren. “Our rational brain isn’t as able to think clearly.”

Take some alone time to scream, cry, or stomp your feet if that helps you lessen your bad feelings. Or better yet, “Go do something to calm yourself down, such as listening to a peaceful song, meditating, journaling, or walking,” suggests Kathy Nickerson, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in Orange County, California. “Then resume the conversation when you feel calm and stable.”

Hear Them Out

When disagreements erupt, we tend to engage in selective hearing. Instead, really pay attention to what the other party is saying. “This isn’t listening in order to gather information and then contest the partner,” says Arturo Paulino, Ed.D., a therapist in Boca Raton, Florida. “That’s not conducive towards healthy conflict management."

Instead, Warren suggests becoming a more active listener. That means not interrupting the speaker and frequently checking in to show that you understand and that they are being heard. “Listen to what they are saying and try to reflect it,” she says. For example, “What I heard you say is…”

Aim for Compromise Not Total Triumph

Don’t focus on a victory in a dispute. Be flexible. “In relationships, conflict is an impasse and it’s about finding compromise and understanding,” Wright says. “When we go in with the mentality of ‘I have to win this argument,’ it prevents us from listening to understand and understanding the conflict’s primary issue.”

Prioritize resolving the conflict, not being the right one. Compromise is fine as long as the main issues of both parties are met. Decide what matters the most to both of you and reach a solution that works for everyone. “Strive for balance and fairness rather than winning the fight,” says Nickerson. “We win when we can both walk away feeling understood and feeling like we got something we wanted.”

It’s Okay to Disagree

While constant conflict isn't great, the flip side—caving in on your values and principles to avoid an argument—isn't better. Realize that we all have differences. “Accept that you're different and hold different values or perspectives without judgment or being condescending,” Warren says. “If you disagree with someone, it doesn’t mean you're better, and they're worse. You're just different.”

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