Inspired by Paul Watzlawick and his “Introduction to Unhappiness,” I have decided to share with you some advice on (not) resolving conflicts. If, despite your systematic efforts, you still struggle to end the quarrels and conflicts of everyday life without breaking dishes, bringing the other person (or at least yourself) to tears, or permanently damaging relationships and trust, today is your lucky day and this article is your golden opportunity!
(And if you’re not familiar with the book “Introduction to Unhappiness,” I recommend you get to know it 😉)
For the more daring among you who would still decide to embark on the uncertain and thorny path of reconciliation (and thereby abandon the noble intention of bringing oneself and others to absolute despair), a small bonus awaits at the end – a survival kit (or first aid kit) for conflict situations and how not to escalate them into complete hell.
But back to the point – and to the matter at hand – you ask how to do it? Like this:
1.Want to win
This one point would actually be enough in our calculation, but since I promised five tips in the headline, I will keep my promise and develop it in the following points as well. If we decide to perceive a conflict as a competition that we want to win (and the other party as an opponent who must lose), we will definitely create a situation from which no one will come out satisfied. Forget what you learned from tennis and football. Whoever scores more goals and gets more points wins. It doesn’t work that way in communication between people. If two people compete and fight, they both lose. Remember the last argument you “won” and achieved what you “wanted.” How did you feel after it? Did you enjoy the desired outcome? I guess that the short feeling of satisfaction from winning was replaced by an unpleasant feeling after the argument, perhaps feelings of guilt, injustice, very likely fatigue, or measured reactions from the other person, and perhaps even complete termination of contact with that person. Of course, we can be satisfied with how we “showed” it to the other person – if we care about asserting ourselves and do not care about how the other person feels. And maybe we really don’t care about it, and our interest is not to further develop a relationship with this person – in that case, the question arises, why waste energy and our own anger in an argument with someone we don’t care about. If we do that, who actually won and who lost?
Prepare a good supply of insults, profanity, and titles that you will give to your opponent. “I am…? So you must be…!” And don’t be embarrassed to stick to the first-level vulgarisms. No, no. Boldly add a few “buts,” “you are such a…,” “always” or “never.” If you have to defend yourself by saying something about yourself, make sure you do it in such a way that all responsibility for your actions is directed outward. “It’s not my fault, I have to…,” “I’m doing all this because of you/them…,” “I have no choice…” and so on.
If you are truly committed to winning, don’t waste your time listening to the other side. You have enough work to do while they speak, thinking about your next argument for why you are right and how to highlight even more vividly where the other person is wrong. What they need and want to achieve is completely beside the point – it’s just about getting them to accept your terms as soon as possible and submit to them. Therefore, confidently stick to your monologue alongside their monologue, and when you succeed in making it unclear what your conflict is actually about, you have almost won.
4.Outdo your opponent
If you have followed the above recommendations so far, the bar is set high from the start, but a fighter like you cannot be satisfied with that. Make sure to constantly raise it and secure your place on the winners’ podium. Remember all the negative traits of your opponent, all the wrongs they have done to you or others, and pull them out of your sleeve at the right moment. If you remember a gem from long ago that no one else remembers but you, use that moment of surprise to stun your opponent. You’ll shock them, disarm them, and reap the coveted success.
5.Have the last word
If none of the above leads to sufficient (dis)satisfaction, don’t lose hope. Arm yourself with patience and persistence. Have the last word at all costs. Even the most stubborn opponent will eventually tire from constantly refuting your arguments, explaining the situation, and defending themselves. Even if you have no more trump cards, don’t forget to insert “you see” or at least “so” or “clearly” after each of your opponent’s sentences. However, there are no limits to creativity here.
But what if, for any reason, you care about yourself or the other person and the mentioned conflict techniques go against your values or you don’t want to continue using them?
You will find out in the conclusion, where I offer a promised bonus for those who choose a less violent and destructive path – a first aid kit for those of you who care about yourselves and the people around you 😉
Why a first aid kit? Because it is a first aid in case you are already in a conflict. You can draw inspiration on how to avoid conflicts as much as possible (unfortunately, but also fortunately, it is not possible to avoid them completely) from the previous articles on communication – the conversation about the four ears or the giraffe language.
So what to do in the midst of a conflict?
It may sound primitive to you. But when emotions are already running high, explaining or logical arguments will be as useful to you as peas on a wall. Moreover, if you are already upset, agitated, or desperate yourself, in many cases, you can best protect yourself and others by simply leaving the situation. Capture the moment when it no longer makes sense to continue and temporarily break contact. Of course, this can be done in a more or less violent way. However, if you announce objectively and without accusations that you need to distance yourself at the moment, give yourself space, and return to the problem later (when you, your partner, and the whole situation have cooled down a bit), you are on the right path to a mature way of resolving conflicts.
If you have already missed the turning point and the right time to disconnect from the situation and find yourself in a crossfire, it is possible that strong emotions are tearing you apart – sadness, fear, anger, outrage… And that is natural. It is quite possible that in your mind, you nourish an ideal according to which a person who successfully handles conflict situations resembles a perfectly calm yogi who is not upset and who “puts in his pocket” any opponent almost in a whisper and a balanced voice. Forget about it. Well, if you don’t have years of yogic practice behind you 😉 It is clear that when we are immersed in emotions, we raise our voice and often yell at our partner. In reality, it may be much healthier than suffocating and suppressing that outburst within yourself. However, pay attention to what you are shouting. There is a difference whether you shout out loud, “I’m so angry, I’m about to jump out of my skin! I’m very upset and disappointed! I didn’t expect this!” or if you snap at someone in the style of “Have you completely lost your mind? What do you think of yourself? I’d rather kick you out the door!” and so on. I believe you feel the difference 🙂
… after you do something
Well, finally, I would like to share with you one of my favorite quotes, which is by (if I’m not mistaken) psychologist Garry Landreth: “It’s not so much what you do, but what you do after you do it.” Sometimes, despite our best intentions and sincere efforts, we engage in behavior that leaves us sad, disappointed, or hurts others. But that’s life, we’re human, etc. (insert any other cliches you like…😉). Simply put – we can’t avoid it. But don’t hang your head even when things look hopeless. There is always a chance to set things right, say what wasn’t said, forgive yourself, say a dignified goodbye, and so on. There is always that one more thing you can say or do after you have done something.