How to successfully resolve disputes

Disputes frequently occur, if people have competing interests and different views. When these interests and views are incompatible, conflicts arise. If left unresolved, such arguments can quickly escalate, become emotional and ultimately block a romantic relationship. It goes without saying the goal is to seek timely resolution of conflict which may preserve and improve an intimate relationship, foster our personal growth and positive change. Since disagreements are inevitable, learning to deal with it and how to resolve disputes in an effective way seems crucial.

When the problem is on-going, the situation needs to be addressed. People tend to avoid one another, faced with an uncomfortable or contentious situation. However, as long as it is safe to discuss the issue rationally, the affected parties should talk about the problem. Therefore, an open and courteous discussion to voice and listen to concerns may reveal that the underlying issue is a simple misunderstanding among the closest people.

If you don’t know how to control your emotions, if you are out of touch with your feelings or so stressed, you won’t be able to understand your own needs, you’ll have a hard time communicating with your significant other and staying in touch with what is really troubling you. In personal relationships, it’s likely to be a lack of understanding about people’s needs, which may result in distance, arguments and break-ups.

What to do in a conflict:

1) Slow down, step back to figure out what’s going on.

Escalation can sometimes be slowed or stopped by calling for a short-term “cooling-off” period during which time all the parties stop engaging and step back to look at the situation and how they are able to proceed more constructively.

2) When you come back together, even if you think you have the answer, focus on carefully listening.

It’s important to listen to your better half before you do much talking. Make sure you understand the other person’s feelings as well as their interests by saying something such as “it sounds to me as if you think… ”

3) When you do talk, use the least confrontational way possible.

The reason is that you want to avoid dispute escalation. It is extremely dangerous — it makes people say things they wish they didn’t say, do things they wish they didn’t do. Usually escalation makes the situation worse for both people. To avoid it, you’d better use “I-messages” instead of “you-messages.”

4) Instead of arguing, negotiate.

But use interest-based bargaining, not positional bargaining. Try to think of the problem as a joint problem to be solved.

5) If this doesn’t work, take a break, and then try again, or get someone else to help you figure out a solution.