6 healthy steps for resolving conflict without it escalating into an altercation

It is impossible to escape conflict! We as human beings are so unique with our various goals,
and motivations that as a result, eventually our various goals are bound to conflict with the goals of others. This is essentially how conflict occurs: your goal of getting a raise conflicts with the company’s goal of being able to maximize corporate profit, your goal of spending more time with your partner conflict with their goal of having solo time to recharge, your goal of trying to set up a time for an appointment conveniently on your day off conflict with the health facility’s availability in serving the community, etc. Conflict happens everywhere, so it’s helpful to know ways to resolve conflict that are more likely to get what we want and less likely to make your blood pressure rise up out of frustration or escalate into verbal or physical altercations. As a licensed psychotherapist whether I’m treating individuals, families, or couples the concept of conflict always seems to come up. Here are 6 steps to resolving conflict in a healthy way!
1. Pick a time and a place and agree upon it. Whatever your conflict happens to be, always start off with a time and a place where you will agree to approach the conflict. Unfortunately, agreeing on a place and a time often occurs after conflicts have escalated already and usually can end in a physical fight, so it’s best, to begin with, this step rather than end with it. Agreeing on a time and place to discuss the conflict first helps reduce the chances of it escalating. Sometimes we are so uncomfortable with the thought of conflict, that we often just want to jump into discussing it right then and there and this often can lead to the other person feeling *ambushed or taken aback” which can make them more defensive which can lead to escalation. What we want to do in this situation is first to invite them into the conversation that we want to have to resolve the conflict. I typically advise clients that the time selected must be a time where both of you will be free from distractions (noise, people, etc) and able (1. not while someone is rushing off to work or just getting back in the house), as well as willing (mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to have the conversation). For places, I often advise avoiding the bedroom because our brains are actually designed to learn through forcing things into categories (referred to as schema/schemata) so if you are discussing conflict in your bedroom, your brain will start to associate your bedroom with conflict which can make it more difficult for you relax in your bedroom or get adequate sleep. Another place to avoid is the Kitchen because there are way too many potential weapons (we’ve all seen true crime shows where arguments end in murder). Once you’ve selected your neutral agreed-upon place (like a living room without the tv on) and a time (such as Thursday at 7 because I’m off of work and I’ve already eaten and relaxed for a little while), it is time for step two.
2. Stick to the main issue at hand and stay in the present. Conflicts often escalate because people go from discussing their main goal (i.e wanting a raise, having your partner do the dishes, etc) to describing past failures and mistakes or who is to blame for the conflict. None of these factors have anything to do with the issue at hand and only distract everyone until the issue is not resolved AND everyone’s feelings are hurt.

3. When discussing the conflict, make sure you stick to the facts. Describe what the issue is that appears to be a conflict to you, does not mean that it is a conflict to someone else, so when you describe what is happening say it without labels or judgments only facts (i.e. I’ve been working here for s years and haven’t received a raise yet). Feelings are also facts, but it is important to follow step 4 when discussing emotions.

4. Own your part and only your part! When conflicts arise and bother us, embrace them, it is ok. It is important when discussing the conflict that we are careful in how we express our emotions, especially feelings of anger and sadness. Often unpleasant emotions occur to make us aware of conflict so that we can resolve it, so we don’t want to stuff down emotions because this can lead to us avoiding conflict with others which leads to building resentment toward others. We also can not let our emotions solely lead us because anger can do some damage especially if the conflict appears as a life and death situation (hence why agreeing on a place and time is so important because it can actually allow us to gain more “middle ground” of our emotions”). When we own our part, we can only our emotions, actions, and feelings I.e. I’m sad because miss you and want to spend time with you.” Others do not own our feelings so saying things like “I’m sad because you play video games all day” can again cause escalation because of emotions not being properly owned and communicated.

5. Be solution-focused! When going into a conflict discussion, after you’ve identified the facts and expressed your part. It’s important to have a solution or two that you can fairly suggest of the other person that would assist you in resolving your conflict (i.e I would like a rase, I would like for us to go out next Saturday night together. etc). Sometimes conflict escalates because we get the venting part down, but without potential solutions, we often keep having the same issue happen repeatedly which can cause more issues in the future and escalations. So remain solution-focused and if a solution cannot be committed to AND followed through then step number 6 comes in handy.

6. Negotiation (internally and externally). Sometimes our solutions will not align with the goals of others even if we “do everything right.” This is when we must negotiate with them (i.e ok so if you don’t want to go out next Saturday, when would you want to go out?) and ourselves (i.e going on a job search because the most employer was willing to offer did not align with your goal). Another negotiation can be a result of establishing boundaries with the person because some people can have unhealthy motives or are abusive and in these cases rather than complete these steps with someone who is unwilling, boundaries would be an alternative

BONUS: seeking a therapist can help you effectively accomplish all of these steps. It’s okay to ask for help, mental health is health and we all deserve to be healthy.


For content like this check out thelatricerelease@gmail.com for any questions, comments, or additional information about finding a therapist. Also, check out free tips and skills at the Latrice Release on Facebook and @TheLatricernlease on tiktok.