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Managing Conflict Resolution Effectively

How to set boundaries and act assertively in conflict.

Key points

  • Assertiveness and boundaries are a powerful combination for managing conflict.
  • When you are being nonjudgmental and cultivating compassion, collaboration increases.
  • Practice active listening to understand your partner while finding common ground.
Source: Moshe Ratson
Source: Moshe Ratson

Conflict resolution is a way for two or more parties to find a peaceful solution to a disagreement among them. When a dispute arises, often the best course of action is assertive communication that resolves the disagreement while maintaining a respectful relationship.

When conflicts are managed constructively, it can help build trust in relationships. Respectfully, directly, and openly discussing opposing perspectives and resolving conflicts collaboratively can create a sense of unity, shared purpose, and mutual respect within the relationship.

Assertiveness and boundaries are essential skills for managing conflict in any situation. Whether it is at work, in your relationships, or in your team, you need to be able to express your feelings, thoughts, needs, and opinions respectfully and confidently.

What is assertive communication?

Assertive communication is a style of communication based on honesty, respect, and confidence. Assertiveness is the ability to express feelings and thoughts openly and to directly defend your rights while respecting the rights of others. It is about taking care of your own needs and wants while considering the needs and wants of others. It is the ability to take responsibility without being controlling. Assertiveness is the balanced space between surrender and aggressiveness. It is not about overpowering or dominating, but rather about finding balance, harmony, and mutual understanding.

Why is assertive communication important for dealing with conflict?

Assertive communication is an essential skill for conflict resolution, as it enables you to express your needs in a respectful manner while also collaboratively resolving your disagreement with your partner. Assertiveness helps build trust and rapport with your partner, empowering your partner while enhancing your self-esteem and confidence. In addition, assertive communication minimizes stress, while ensuring your rights and boundaries are respected.

Assertive communication is important because it ensures that you deliver your points in a constructive way—respectful, clear, direct, and kind. When you communicate in that manner, it will naturally help diffuse the conflict, establish healthy boundaries, and also prevent any issue from escalating.

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are the limits and rules you set for yourself and others in your interactions. They reflect your values, preferences, and expectations and help you define what is acceptable or unacceptable for you. Boundaries help individuals establish limits and protect their emotional and physical well-being. Without boundaries, individuals may not feel safe or secure in their relationships or environments.

Set healthy boundaries

Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries with others is a skill you can learn and practice. To do so, identify your boundaries—what you want and need, what makes you feel comfortable and uncomfortable, and your non-negotiables. Then communicate them clearly, directly, and respectfully to others. Be consistent and firm, but also flexible and open to feedback. If someone crosses or violates your boundaries, let them know how you feel and what you expect. Take action to protect yourself if they persist or disrespect your boundaries. Lastly, respect the boundaries of others. Ask for permission, listen to their cues, and accept their “no” without judgment, pressure, or manipulation.

Integrate assertiveness and boundaries to resolve conflict

Handling conflict with boundaries and assertiveness is not always easy, but it is achievable and beneficial. To do so, identify your state of mind, feelings, and needs, and prepare your statements. Choose an appropriate time and location to have a discussion about the conflict and make sure that both parties are ready and willing to converse. During the talk, objectively focus on the issue rather than the person. Avoid personal attacks, put down, or allegations, and use “I” statements to express your perspective. Stay calm and listen with curiosity to understand your partner while finding common ground. Respect both of your boundaries and rights while being willing to compromise and negotiate. Stay open-minded and make sure you maintain a caring relationship with your partner regardless of conflict and its outcome. Finally, thank the other person for their time and effort, summarizing what you agreed upon, expressing appreciation, and hoping for a stronger relationship and a bright future.

Practice active listening

To identify the source of the conflict, you have to pay attention and listen carefully. To listen actively, make sure you understand your partner and paraphrase the other party's points.

Pay attention to nonverbal signals and use appropriate body language, such as nodding your head, to show interest and to clarify that you're following them.

Listen without interruption to what the other person has to say. Aspire to be objective and clear. Then, ask questions to make sure each side understands what the other person thinks, feels, and wants.

Do that before speaking

Before you communicate, ask yourself the following questions about what you wish to say:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it kind?
  • Is it useful?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it going to land well?
  • Is this the right time to say it?

If one of the answers is no, consider not saying it. In these moments, silence is more productive than words. Be patient and once you find the time when the answers to these questions are yes, this is the time to speak.

7 steps for better conflict resolution

  1. Define the source of the conflict. Take your time to reveal the true needs of each party. The greater knowledge you have about the cause of the problem, the more easily you can resolve it.
  2. Find a common goal. Make similarities the starting point of finding a creative solution. Be open and curious to continually find common ground throughout the entire conflict resolution process.
  3. Establish safety. Creative conflict resolution requires that all parties feel safe enough to not only share what they need but to challenge each other's ideas without emotional escalation.
  4. Recognize your part. Be accountable and objectively assess your share in the conflict. Acknowledge your role in the problem and take responsibility for it.
  5. Empathize with your partner. Demonstrate to your partner that you understand their side while considering it. When you are being non-judgmental and cultivate compassion the fear of losing diminishes and collaboration increases.
  6. Review options. Remind yourself of your positive intention and what you want to achieve before you start the discussion. Be creative and discuss possible options while looking for solutions that benefit all parties.
  7. Discover a win-win solution. This is the ultimate goal—to agree on an option that benefits both sides to some extent. When one party wins and another party loses, the outcome does not resolve the underlying causes of the conflict.

Conflicts and disagreements are unavoidable. It is important to realize that the benefits of conflict resolution extend beyond resolving disagreements, contributing significantly to personal growth, emotional well-being, and healthy relationships.

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