Whether you’re just beginning high school or starting your first job, your teenage years will certainly come with a little conflict. But don’t worry, this is normal! Learning how to deal with personality clashes and problems with other people are all part of maturing and will help you tremendously later in life. This is especially true if you learn how to effectively handle personal conflicts early on.
So, if you’re not getting along with someone at school or at your job or at home, there are a few simple things to remember that might help you get along better. This is assuming, of course, that you actually want to get along. If you simply don’t want to have a relationship with this person and if you have the option of not continuing the relationship, that’s up to you. But if it’s someone in your family or a classmate or a coworker, then you probably don’t have much of a choice. You’ll need to find a way to make peace and get along. So here are a few simple concepts to remember, which I called the 3 C’s.
To put it simply, most people get angry at others because they believe the other person simply doesn’t care about them. The angry one might not be willing to admit this, or might not even be aware that “care” is at the root of the problem. But I’m willing to bet that most conflicts you encounter are because you or the other person or both of you feel disrespected or not considered by the other. This all stems from the belief that there is a lack of care in the relationship.
So, first step in resolving a conflict is actually caring about the other person, about their feelings, about their viewpoint. Even if you don’t agree with them, you can still care about them. And this applies even if you think they don’t care about you. You can be the bigger person and begin to care about them. You can express care to them by the way you act and speak toward them. That you actually respect them and care about their feelings, rather than lashing out or dismissing or hurting them in some way. If the other individual has any interest in getting along with you, they will respond positively to your show of care and respect. If they don’t, then at least you tried, and this is great practice for future problems with people.
A show of commitment to the relationship and to the process of creating a better relationship is also extremely important. If you can show that you’re committed to sticking around, to figuring out how to get along, to essentially talking or negotiating with the person until you can both figure out how to be in a better space, that commitment goes a long way to showing that you care. If you are committed to the process of resolving your conflict, in a caring and respectful way, you have a very good chance of figuring out how to get along and improve your relationship.
Finally, you have to communicate! This is key to resolving conflicts. Dismissing someone, ignoring them, avoiding them, or refusing to talk to them, does nothing but worsen the situation and create greater, deeper conflict. On the contrary, when you communicate openly and calmly, with care and respect and a committed attitude, you have a much better chance of changing the relationship for the better.
One thing that is important to communicate is how you feel — not what you think but how you feel. In other words, sadness or guilt or embarrassment or joy, these are all feelings. Feelings are typically described in one word. The minute you start explaining your feelings, creating sentences about what you feel, you are into what you’re thinking and believing, which is not usually helpful. Stick to communicating how you feel about the relationship, not what you think. Once you express how you feel, make sure to let the other person express how they feel and be open to what they say, not defensive or dismissive. Clear, respectful communication, wherein each person cares about how the other feels, is absolutely crucial in resolving your personal conflicts.
As you can see, all three C’s relate to each other. You need to care about the other person, commit to the process of healing the relationship, and communicate calmly that you care and are committed to the process. If you can remember these 3 C’s when speaking to others in general and especially when trying to improve a relationship, you may just find a friend where you once thought you had an enemy.
About the Author: Jeremy POLLACK, Monthly Mentor, is an Anthropologist, cognitive-behavioral modification coach, conflict resolution specialist, and researcher in the field of psychology. Jeremy holds a Master’s degree in Evolutionary Anthropology from California State University, Fullerton under anthropologist John Patton. His thesis research was in the evolution of religious cognition and intergroup conflict. Jeremy also holds a Masters degree in Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, and Peacebuilding (NCRP) from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Currently, he is earning his PhD in Psychology at Grand Canyon University. Read More…