How to Work Through Conflict

Do you know how to rebuild a relationship after conflict?

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read
Episode #60

Be Sincerely Kind and Genuinely Positive

The best possible thing you can do is to be sincerely kind and genuinely positive. That means doing things such as saying “Hi” and smiling at them when they pass by in the hallways, talking to them at meetings about the projects or about other things that are important to them, and perhaps even Facebooking them now and again. I know, I know, easier said than done! It’s hard to be kind and positive during and after a conflict.

However, it turns out it helps if you focus on the common ground that you share. In fact, in traditional conflict resolution, the idea is to figure out what you can both agree to. In your case, focus on the fact that all of you are interested in having good Key Club meetings, and ultimately in helping your community through service.

Focus On Common Ground

Focusing on the things you have in common brings people together, which reduces tension, and can even sometimes help to rebuild trust and respect in a relationship. Because you were good friends with these girls at one time, try to think of why you became such good friends to begin with. You may be able to find a positive remnant of the old relationship that you can focus on to help you remain upbeat, positive, and kind in all of your interactions with these girls. 

Discuss Underlying Concerns

Who knows, eventually you may even want work through your conflict. If so, you’ll need to have a direct discussion of your underlying concerns. It is important that during that discussion you remain open and neutral. You need to achieve what’s called a “stance of curiosity”--that means you that you ask open-ended questions to facilitate the discussion. It also means that your words, your gestures, and your tone of voice all need to be congruent and be perceived as you are really listening. The idea is to be perceived as truly wanting to the resolve the conflict.

When I was a junior in high school I also had a major conflict with my best friend. In the beginning we weren’t so good at being kind to each other, but we eventually were able to participate in activities together by focusing on the shared interest in the activity. Later when we were in college, we worked through our issues--I still remember it took several very honest and difficult discussions. However, by discussing our underlying concerns we were able to work through the conflict. Ultimately, it made us better friends.   Even today, almost thirty years later, we’re still good friends. And that’s an important plus side of any conflict, if it’s handled effectively, it can make a relationship stronger.

Finally, keep in mind your “break-up” is fresh, and as with all things, time will also help to make the situation easier. Even thought it’s hard, learning how to manage difficult situations and work through conflict is a valuable skill that is worth the investment of your time. Please be sure to write me and tell me how it worked out.

This is Lisa B. Marshall. Passionate about communication; your success is my business.

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Conflict image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.