The definition of the word conflict, when it is used as a verb, means:

“to be different, opposed, or contradictory: to fail to be in agreement or accord” and as a noun, it means: “fight, battle, war.”

Conflict in relationships is inevitable. Interpersonal Conflict is a disagreement where two people see or understand something different than one another, opposed.

We can’t have a relationship without disagreeing or conflict at some point. We also can’t have a relationship without resolving conflicts. It’s interesting to me that conflict as a noun literally means, fight, battle or war.

Ever feel like you are in a battle with someone you dearly love?

Conflict with another person can quickly turn into drawn-out battles and even escalate to the point of the relationship ending.

If conflict in a relationship is inevitable, then how can we do conflict well?

I won’t be able to answer or address everything that conflict and resolving conflict entails in a blog, however, here are some thoughts that may be helpful.

Since conflict is inevitable, then what does it produce? At the end of any conflict, something changes. Think about it for a minute. Each and every conflict we have with another person ends with something changing. Wouldn’t it be nice if the change was positive? If the change would build rather than destroy? If the change would bring more life? We can not control how the other person addresses conflict. We can, however, control our own responses when conflict arises.

I heard a great quote from our Pastor about interpersonal conflict,

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“When there is conflict do you want to be correct, or do you want to connect.”

Sometimes humbling ourselves to hear the other person first can lead to remaining connected, as well as, greater opportunity to be heard. Other times we need to be more assertive. There are also times when we just need to agree to disagree. Our point of view matters, but so does the other person’s.

It helps to understand our personal intentions for approaching conflict. We all use the various ways, but it helps to understand which one is our go-to or what our current approach might be. This infographic helps to depict the different styles:

Theoretically our “conflict-handling intentions” operate on two competing spectrums: concern for others (Cooperativeness) and concern for self (Assertiveness).

Accommodating (Friendly Helper)

Collaborating (Problem Solver)

Avoiding (Interpersonal Compiler)

Competitive (Tough Battler)

Compromising (Maneuvering Conciliator)

In looking at it more closely, it makes sense if a person is feeling low concern for themselves and others, that person would lean towards being more avoidant with conflict. There may be other times where we won’t feel ok unless it all goes our way (High concern for self and low concern for others). In an ideal setting, our concern for others would be comparative to our concern for ourselves. This is where compromise is found.

Resolution is defined as:

“a resolve; a decision or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something.“

When we have conflict we can be empowered to know that we can effect positive change.

My voice matters, my point of view matters my opinion matters, but so does the other person’s point of view. 

We can address conflict through resolving to understand one another and coming to a mutual agreement. We resolve conflict when both parties are willing to consider the other person’s point of view and experience. We resolve conflict not just when we are heard, we truly begin to resolve conflict when we are willing to hear the other person. And then come to a mutual agreement.

In talking through, processing, and understanding one another, we often find that the seemingly apparent issue was masking deeper feelings, worries or vulnerabilities. In choosing connection, in choosing humility and vulnerability, in choosing to fight for positive life-giving change, we will find that conflict, resolved well, leads to greater intimacy and connection because it aids in better understanding one another.

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Andrew Heinz Emery Counseling Mens and Family Counseling

Andrew Heinz

LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)

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