8 Steps to Prevent Conflict
Most teachings about conflict focus on skills to resolve conflict, that is after it occurs. But what about preventing conflict in the first place? I want to live a life with less conflict, instead of the conflict-resolution cycles that drain the emotional energies of everyone involved.
Below are eight steps to help you prevent conflict in your relationships, on your team, and in your life as a leader.
Impassioned disagreements can be good for teams and relationships—they can lead to stronger bonds through deeper understanding. However, when conflict becomes a vigorous exchange of ideas, it often evolves into a battle that weakens a relationship. Conflict is like tectonic plates having so much friction—an inability to coexist—that as a result, volcanos erupt. Teams are splintered; marriages are fractured; partnerships, broken; and friendships, silenced.
To prevent conflict does not mean to shy away from dealing with difficult issues or to skirt around hard conversations. Openness is the hallmark of strong relationships. A focus to prevent conflict simply aims to avoid the injurious, sometimes fatal, combat that roars through, often decimating bonds between people. Here is how to prevent conflict:
- Deepen your relationship. Have you noticed how in the best relationships, issues are discussed openly before they get to a stage of causing emotional injury or scars. If your relationship is poor, your understanding of the other person is lacking. If you are unable to relate to them or them to you, then you have prepared the ground for conflict. If you have a good relationship, conflict is much less likely.
- Improve your communication. We must cultivate habits that ensure regular and healthy communication with those we value. When we communicate regularly, clearly, calmly, and empathically, then chances are we will talk about issues before they even become a conflict. Practically, this means that you must make time to talk to the other person(s) in your life. Talk often. Talk deeply. Talk openly.
- Resolve your frustration. Conflict starts when one party feels slighted, hurt, or frustrated. If not resolved, this frustration can potentially grow into a conflict. When we cannot resolve our issue peacefully, in the interest of protecting ourselves, we start using weapons such as anger, contempt, and ridicule to show our displeasure. If you are frustrated, you must address the issue. Otherwise, conflict and problems will come. How do you resolve your frustration? One of two ways: adjust how you perceive the problem, or discuss it with the other party.
- Restrain your emotions. If frustration is the flame, emotion is the wind that blows it about. Unbridled emotions hijack our mind and cause us to say harsh words, do hurtful things, and assume the worst intentions, thereby leading us directly into conflict. Be aware of your emotions, and keep them at bay.
- Monitor your thoughts. Attached to negative emotions, generated by frustration, are negative thoughts. We must make it our goal to recognize negative thoughts and run to stop them.
- Govern your tongue. The flames of conflict increase when one person says something that the other person deems offensive. Guard your tongue.
- Adjust your expectations. Many times we expect so much from the other person, that if they don’t deliver, we become frustrated and enter into a potential conflict. Manage your expectations of people and relationships. No one is perfect.
- Deepen your character. Those with magnanimous characters will withstand stronger attacks before reaching a level of frustration that lead to conflict. Those with the greatest capacities of love, forgiveness, and grace will avoid conflict because of who they are. They can withstand more through their wisdom and calmness of spirit. Let us grow our characters daily.
I hope these eight steps to prevent conflict inspire personal growth and minimize conflicts in your relationships and on the teams you lead.
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