Q: Help! I would like to live peacefully but keep getting into arguments with my friends and family. What do I do?
Answer: People come with unique life histories and experiences, shaping their perspectives, belief systems or values. Thus, these differences in opinion are inevitable!
It becomes a conflict depending upon how strongly each person holds onto his/her point of view, without necessarily accommodating other’s views. This is where one can intentionally change something. We can learn how to manage conflicts well and resolve them, by polishing our skills to present our views (assertiveness) and also listen to others too (empathy).
Q: Which is better – try to win arguments or give in to others – and how do I develop it?
Answer: People respond to conflicts in a variety of ways. It can range from always trying to win a point and gain power, to generally giving in to others (out of concern for others or for the relationship in general) or even of avoiding conflicts altogether. However, these styles are rather extreme and usually what might work best would be either to find a win-win solution for both self and the other person, or try to find a solution which is fair to both parties. Most people use a variety of approaches to manage conflicts, and the choice usually depends upon a combination of influences such as one’s goals and expectation from a situation, one’s values, belief systems, mood state, and the other person involved, as well as the context and culture.
When something important is at stake, our emotions get entangled. So one first needs to calm oneself down (use distraction, drink water, exercise, take a break, move away from the situation etc), then try to understand why this issue is important. And also try to get into other person’s perspective, and understand why this issue might be important to the other person. What would be her/his ideas and beliefs? Most of the times, there are no absolute right or wrong positions, so it is important to develop concern for the other person along with for oneself, and try to find a fair or win-win solution, which is also mutually acceptable.
However, in spite of differences there should be mutual understanding and acceptance of ‘no hurt-no violence’ contract. If a conflict leads to some kind of violence, or even threat of violence, then it is important to end that discussion, or even that relationship, till this contract is agreed upon to be followed.
Q: What happens when I work in teams and there are differences between various members of my team?
Answer: Conflict may arise due to true differences or can also be due to simple misunderstanding/miscommunication between people. When conflicts arise out of misunderstanding, gracefully acknowledging that you made an error and accepting other’s point of view will help you grow as an individual, and also build healthy relationships. Rephrasing and articulating other’s point of views help in bringing clarity to yourself and others, and reduces misunderstanding.
Constructive differences in group/team discussions are in fact healthy. They aid in arriving at informed decisions. These may be seen more as conflicts in positions taken by individuals, rather than conflicts between individuals. Such differences can be addressed, first by listening to everyone’s viewpoints and articulating the differences and then by bringing the focus on the larger objective and building consensus. Showing empathy when listening and influencing generally helps resolve conflicts amicably through consensus.
Q: At times, I wonder whether my own opinions and conclusions are right and I feel miserable with myself.
Answer: Intra-personal conflict is within your own mind and it involves thoughts relating to your own principles, values and emotions. These conflicts may range from deciding between options on everyday tasks to important decisions such as choosing a career path. These conflicts can cause restlessness and may lead to significant distress.
Even these conflicts, if resolved well, can help you in understanding yourself better and aid in self-discovery and growth. First step is to recognize those inner conflicts and be aware of the origin of those conflicts – be it your own principles, beliefs or values. Being ignorant about the origins of the conflicts may cause unnecessary anxiety and stress. On the other hand, being aware and thoughtful about these inner conflicts can create breakthroughs.
You can talk to other people, read up about various related perspectives and contemplate over it in the context of your own life experiences. Simply experiencing an internal conflict ‘as-is’ without judgment and raising yourself to become a part of the solution will help your personal growth. Sometimes one may have to cultivate patience for the questions itself, because there may not be easy answers to some inner conflicts. And one will learn and resolve them gradually over the course of life.
Expert: Dr Jyotsna Agrawal
Dr Jyotsna is assistant professor of Positive Psychology at the
Dept. of Clinical Psychology, NIMHANS, Bangalore