Relationships: Healthy Responses To Conflicts And Skills To Deal With It

Asian man and woman in a disagreement needing healthy responses to conflicts in their relationship.

If you are in or have been in a relationship with someone, you have experienced conflicts. And disagreements are bound to happen even in the best of relationships. Because when you put two people together, it’s a sure bet they will occasionally have differing opinions. So learning how to have healthy responses to conflicts rather than avoiding them is crucial.

Things can certainly get dicey when conflicts arise. I think of the TV show, Everybody Loves Raymond. Ray and Debra could fight like no other. However, if they were married in real life and acted that way, significant harm would have unquestionably come to the relationship. So while the make-believe fights were hysterical on TV, I recommend handling them more respectfully and positively to strengthen the bond between those involved. I can only cover some things there is to know about resolving conflicts in one blog. Still, I can give you some healthy ways to respond when you dispute with a relational partner.


Being able to recognize and respond to important matters

It’s vital to come together to discuss both sides of the issue. Explain to each other exactly what the conflict involves. At this stage, you say what you want and listen to what your partner wants.

The ability to seek compromise and avoid punishing

A healthy relationship involves a give-and-take mentality. In other words, compromise. If you expect to get what you want 100% of the time, you will only set yourself up for disappointment. Compromising takes each person doing their part to ensure a reasonable exchange.

In regards to punishing, sometimes, out of hurt or anger, people want to punish the other person when they don’t get their way during a conflict. This response not only does nothing to help the situation but, in fact, makes the situation far worse and causes more hurtful feelings.

Having the willingness to forgive and forget

This might be one of the harder healthy responses to conflicts. However, resolving the conflict is impossible if you are unwilling or unable to forgive. Holding onto grudges from past hurts or resentments makes it extremely hard to focus on the current situation. Unfortunately, our brains do not come equipped with a reset button regarding forgetting. We cannot just press “erase” and “reset” to clear out all unpleasant memories. 

So when I say “forgive and forget,” it doesn’t mean you will not remember a past offense. It just means that after you forgive, you choose to remember with no ill will toward the other person. It’s important to remember when you can’t forgive someone, it is a weight that YOU carry that will negatively affect your life and the people around you.

A belief that resolution can support the interests and needs of both parties 

Both partners must view their conflict as a problem to be solved by them. It isn’t about one or the other getting the best deal for themselves but finding the best solution for them. They each have to actively participate and make an effort and commitment to work hard together, finding fair and acceptable solutions to both as the goal.


Manage stress while remaining calm

Managing and relieving stress in the heat of the moment is key to staying balanced, focused, and in control of yourself. Otherwise, you will become overwhelmed and need help to respond healthily and constructively. The best way to quickly and reliably relieve stress other than talking to someone close by is through the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. However, because each person responds differently to sensory input, you need to discover things that are soothing to you.

By staying calm, you will be more in tune with your feelings. In addition, you will also be able to hear what the other person is saying and be able to pick up on their non-verbal communication as well. 

Having emotional awareness

Emotions drive our behavior. But, many individuals don’t know how or why they feel a certain way. So for them, they are likely to need help communicating effectively or resolving disagreements. Even though it sounds simple enough, not everyone is in touch with their own feelings. Many ignore or try to stifle strong emotions like anger, sadness, and fear. However, connecting to these feelings is essential to handling conflict and enjoying better relationships.

Control your emotions and behavior

Be open, honest, and remain respectful. Communicate your needs without threats, deception, manipulation, or attempts at punishing the other person. Mutual trust is a fundamental issue in a healthy, long-term relationship; neither partner should do anything to weaken it.

Having a negative or distrustful attitude is harmful to this process. Likewise, approaching the conflict with a superior (hard-nosed) attitude or a feeling of inferiority (being a soft touch) is also detrimental.

Pay attention to non-verbal communication

Have you ever been conversing with someone and heard their words but believed they were saying something different with their facial expressions or body movement? 

Sometimes the most important information exchanged during conflicts is communicated non-verbally. When we can “listen” for what is felt as well as what is being, “said,” we can connect more deeply to our own needs and emotions as well as to other people. Listening this way can help you determine what the other person is trying to communicate. 

Responding in a calm tone of voice, a reassuring touch, or a curious or engaged facial expression goes a long way toward easing a strained exchange. Your ability to accurately read another person depends on your own emotional awareness. Therefore, the more you are aware of your own emotions, the easier it will be for you to pick up on the non-verbal clues that can reveal what others are feeling.

Use humor

Once you control stress and emotion, your capacity for joy, pleasure, and playfulness is set free. You can avoid many confrontations and resolve conflicts by communicating humorously. However, let me make this perfectly clear. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you laugh with the other person and not at them. Otherwise, you will set off a whole new round of fighting, if you know what I mean.

When humor and play are used to lessen tension and anger or put the situation into perspective, the conflict becomes an opportunity for greater connection and intimacy.

“Conflict can and should be handled constructively; when it is, relationships benefit. Conflict avoidance is NOT the hallmark of a good relationship. On the contrary, it is a symptom of serious problems and poor communication.” – Harriet B. Braiker

Most people would like to resolve their conflicts healthily, but for some, for various reasons, they have never learned how. And while the concept of “healthy conflict resolution” is easy to understand intellectually, it is not as easy to apply and use consistently. It can, however, become easier once the skills and trust are developed.

So, are you struggling with healthy responses to conflicts and wanting to explore better ways to resolve disputes positively and healthily? In that case, along with the tips listed above, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn additional techniques to enhance your conflict resolution skills. 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, and I am here to help. Please contact me or schedule your phone call today. And I look forward to offering you more personalized support as you develop the skills to have strong, healthy, and successful relationships moving forward.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.