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How to Resolve Conflicts and Restore Peace

resolve conflicts

It seems that many of us will either do too little or do too much in response to a conflict. We will either try to avoid people who are upset with us which will only cause tensions to strengthen with time or we may become too confrontational and end up in a personal battle that doesn’t lead anywhere beneficial.

Wouldn’t it be better to find ways to resolve conflicts and restore peace?

I think we can all agree that life is challenging enough without getting involved in strives that don’t have to happen in the first place. When you sense that a conflict is about to occur, it’s best to stop it in it’s tracks before it creates an unnecessary wedge between you and other people. This article will tell you how.

Find out why they are upset

Before you can resolve conflicts and restore peace, you have to find out why the other person is upset with you. Only after finding why they are upset with you will you be able to get to the root cause of the issue.

And when you ask them why they’re upset, you have to decide whether you’re going to ask them directly or indirectly. If the person is someone who likes to hear things as they are and they don’t get offended easily, you should go ahead and ask them directly. But if they’re like most people, they would probably feel uncomfortable with such a confrontation and will view your inquiry as being negative in tone. That is why it’s usually a good idea to ask indirectly.

Here are some indirect ways of stating it:

* “You look like you have something on your mind. Is everything okay?”
* “Has something been bothering you lately?”
* “Are you okay today? You seem a little stressed.”
* “Is there something you want to talk about?”

The important thing to remember is to make your approach seem like it’s part of a regular conversation—that way they won’t feel like they have to go on the defensive so much and they’ll be more likely to open up to you. Being too direct and confrontational will likely cause them to build more resistance toward you.

Then what?

After you find out the reason they are upset, it will be a good idea to show them that you understand why they feel the way they do and how you sympathize with what they are going through. If you did something wrong, it’s advisable that you apologize to them to show them that you intend to treat them respectfully. If they’re upset over something that you think is insignificant, they will at least feel better about themselves when they know that you understand why they feel the way they do. Remember, your goal is to restore the peace.

To illustrate this process, if they’re mad because you said something to them that came out the wrong way, you can tell them what you really meant and lightly apologize for the misunderstanding. Then you could show them that you understand why they feel the way they do and how you would probably feel the same way if you were in their position. Usually, that will be enough to sooth their frustrations considerably and your relationship with them might actually improve instead of worsening.

Everyone benefits from wisdom and insight

The whole point is to resolve conflicts and restore peace by being empathetic with people. Don’t let your emotions cause you to do or say something that will make the situation worse. Stay composed, think outside of yourself and get a feel for what other people are going through. With this wisdom and insight, your life will be much easier for you as a result.

How do you move from conflict to peace?
Is it difficult for you to take the first step?
The lines are open!

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30 Comments

  1. Anto January 26, 2010 Reply

    Your blog posts are always inspiring and educational. Thank you for sharing that one with me, it will help me think in order to avoid any conflicts with the people that surround me.

    • I’m glad it was helpful, Anto. It’s always helpful to think instead of letting our emotions get the best of us sometimes.

  2. Steven Aitchison January 26, 2010 Reply

    Great post here and useful. As Jonathan says it really is an advanced life skill to be able to recognise and resolve conflict. It also takes the ‘bigger person’ to be able to initiate the resolution process.

    Just a side note: paragraphs 5 and 6 are exactly the same as 3 and 4 :)

    • Exactly, Steven. Somebody has to take the initiative to keep a relationship strong in the midst of conflict and misunderstandings

  3. Steve January 26, 2010 Reply

    Probably one of the top make-or-break success factors in business and in life is the ability to successfully communicate in the midst of conflict without ignoring it or attacking the person involved. Easier said than done, but this article gives some great insight into getting started on resolving the conflict. Thank you for the great article!

    • You’re definitely right, Steve. Handling conflicts with people is one of the toughest challenges of any career.

      On a side note, I’m about to listen to an audiobook called “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This books seems to cover the topic of handling conflicts into some depth as well.

  4. Kikolani January 26, 2010 Reply

    I tend to avoid conflicts with people, which recently backfired. If you avoid telling someone that something they are doing is bothering you, then that person will continue to do it which just leads to internal conflict, and possibly external conflict as well. In my case, the external conflict developed not with the person who was bothering me, but with a third party that had no control over the situation, which led to a lot of frustration for me and the third party.

    So sometimes, it is necessary to say something, and just be prepared to stay calm to help resolve the conflict, as oppose to letting it get out of hand.

    • You’re exactly right, Kristi. I have always felt uncomfortable when I sensed that someone was upset at me but they always stayed completely quiet around me. That’s why I like using the indirect approach because there’s no telling what they’re upset about—it could be something I never anticipated. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to confront someone in that manner when I don’t have enough information about what I’m getting into.

  5. Saboma January 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for the reminder. I have a neighbor who tends to enjoy chaos and is highly charged with negativity. Offering facts makes her more irrational and there is no way that she will accept that which is offered as known historical truth, such as the Treaty of Tripoli, a very important document in American history. Furthermore, she has shown me that emotionally, she will kick a wall and then get angry because it won’t argue back. It’s patterned behavior. My conclusion? You can take a man to the train station but you can’t make him step on board the train.

    So be it.

    • I’ve known people like that, Saboma. They’re so uncompromising with others and resistant to reality that they may have a few missing bolts if you know what I mean. Or maybe they’ve had too much of something or they’re not getting enough of something. Either way, it’s best to stay away from those people.

  6. Travis Alexander January 26, 2010 Reply

    Its never a good idea to confront the “person” if you sense oncoming tension. What you should do instead is confront the “behavior” of that person, that way you can minimize any potential offense to the ego. In other words, you got it spot on, great post!

  7. Stephen - Rat Race Trap January 26, 2010 Reply

    I like the indirect way of asking if someone is upset. I’m very direct by nature and tend to put people off until the get to know me better.

    “After you find out the reason they are upset, it will be a good idea to show them that you understand why they feel the way they do and how you sympathize with what they are going through.”

    This is something I don’t do often enough. Confirming their feelings by stating them “I see you are feeling …” back to the person is an excellent way to show empathy, but it doesn’t come naturally to me and I often forget.

    Well done article.

    • Thank you, Steven. I think it’s perfectly understandable that empathy of this type doesn’t come naturally for you. Maybe you grew around people who were tough enough to take directness without being offended.

  8. Hugh DeBurgh January 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for the great post! :-)

    I find that I am so laid back that I rarely get into conflict with people over minor things.

    My problem seems to be in dealing with bigger issues in relationships. And when you raise those, you may just be opening a can of worms. The stress and conflict are the same. But the potential resolution can be much harder to figure out. So not only is there an underlying conflict creating stress, but the anticipation of dealing with a complex but unresolved issue is an additional source of stress on top of it!

    Whew! I get stressed just talking about it! :-)

    I supposed the indirect approach is best, as the less negative energy that gets stirred up, the better!

    Anyway, thanks again!

    Hugh

    • I don’t like arguing about small, insignificant manners either Hugh. That’s a huge waste of effort that a lot of people are fervently attracted to for some reason.

      I’m glad you saw a different perspective on how to deal with larger issues that can’t be avoided. I wish you well.

  9. Gail @ A Flourishing Life January 27, 2010 Reply

    There is some good advice here. I want to follow up on a couple of points. Many people avoid conflict because they are afraid of what the results might be. Staying composed often means managing fear during the conversation.

    Second, when you ask someone what is going on with them, it is best if you are open to the response. Sometimes we hear things we’d prefer not to, then a conversation can become a conflict.

    Thanks for the insights.

    • I agree, Gail. At certain point, it’s best to let someone say what’s on their mind instead of letting that frustration build up inside of them.

  10. Lana January 27, 2010 Reply

    Awesome article. The most important point is to switch your attention from yourself and try to really understand what another person is going thorough. I wish more people were able to do that. Thank you!

    • Some of the most annoying people I’ve met have been the ones who are most self-absorbed. It’s no wonder they are so generally disliked because they never take time to really understand people who are different from them.

  11. Zuzanna January 28, 2010 Reply

    Wonderful article, I am not in favour of any conflicts, but in life there are situations that my create conflicts. It is always good to know how to handle that situation. I found from my own experience that to be a good listener and sympathetic with those who are creating conflicting situation helps at time to keep the flame down. I will agree with Jonathan Wells that life is definitely too short for such thing like conflict. I would also point out that there would be a different approach dealing with family conflict and a work conflict. Every one will have to have a more professional approach to resolve it peacefully.

    Thank you,
    Zuzanna

    • Thank you, Zuzanna. It does benefit us greatly when we learn how to listen to people and pay attention to their indirect communication as well as their direct communication.

  12. Great tip, especailly the indirect approaches. It’s so important to get the closure on conflicts and get all feelings out so they can be dealth with.

    • That’s true, Amit. I think it’s better to let people express their feelings instead of letting their frustrations build up to a point where they do something dramatic.

  13. Nea February 2, 2010 Reply

    Nice article. I agree that empathy goes a long way in communicating. In many cases, a person will calm down just with the realization that you care about what they’re feeling.

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. Joan Harrison April 25, 2013 Reply

    Learning to communicate, picking up on other people’s body language and facial expressions has helped me enormously. It is so important to add clarity to your relationships to avoid misunderstanding.

  15. Dr. Sherrie April 26, 2013 Reply

    such a great blog post. I am a psychologist and 90% of what is communicated in my office is nonverbal. This is why I do not enjoy phone therapy much. Being in the energy of the person is the most powerful. I also blog about life skills and work daily to help people achieve their ultimate sense of self. You blog is so great!

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