Three Stages of Conflict

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How you deal with conflict is determined by your personal history, particularly as it relates to your family and your current living situation. It would be unrealistic to believe that a life of perfect harmony is normal or that conflict is abnormal. The truth is conflict is inevitable; yet, with a better understanding, it is manageable and can be dealt with in a healthy manner.

Understanding Conflict

Understand that conflict is a part of life and should not always be considered a negative thing. Conflict can actually be productive in relationships, helping to propel your relationships forward, whether personal or professional. The negativity comes with how you choose to handle conflict, especially if you make it your mission in life to avoid it. Avoiding conflict only escalates the problem, and it is usually a sign that something needs to change.

Stage One: Transgression

Expect a certain amount of conflict in your relationships, particularly with those you are interdependent on; conflict rarely occurs with people you are not mutually dependent on. In any relationship, no matter how healthy, what may begin as a simple transgression or personal violation can quickly turn into arousal and, ultimately, a relational rift. Whether your co-worker took the credit for a task you performed, your teenager lied to you about where he was going or your husband forgot your anniversary, conflict is born from such personal violations.

Stage Two: Negotiation

Recognize that people have diverse perspectives and interests. In order to negotiate a resolution for the sake of your relationship, you must have a good understanding of both parties involved. Collaboration, as it relates to conflict, is an essential part of negotiation. It's less about compromise and more about working together toward a common goal. Seeking mediation from an objective third party might be helpful at this stage. Negotiation, if done in the interest of both parties, can have many benefits, including the sparing of time and feelings.

Stage Three: Forgiveness

Say you're sorry when the occasion warrants it. If a transgression or a personal violation becomes an issue because it has negatively impacted your relationship with someone, forgiveness may be in order. Forgiveness is not necessarily pardoning the transgression, nor is it forgetting. It is simply renegotiating the relationship in a positive way, moving the relationship to a place of empathy and understanding. Forgiveness has the ability to restore one's well-being, the relationship and the general order of things.