Conflict is normal in healthy relationships and disagreements occur in our daily lives. Some may see conflict as something negative and try to avoid it. However, managing conflict and developing skills to communicate in a healthy way are skills that are necessary to maintain the various relationships that we have. Many interpersonal conflicts occur when we feel our rights have been violated and it takes work to express these emotions without using aggression or passive-aggressive behaviour. Acting aggressively can seem to have a positive effect initially but the message we send is that my needs matter but yours don’t; This type of communication and conflict management does not nurture positive and healthy communication where both people feel safe. Some approach conflict by being passive and not saying anything at all. Acting passively may feel like you are avoiding an escalation or conflict but it can have personal negative consequences such as low self-esteem, stuffing anger and hurt feelings and not getting your needs met.
The first step is identifying the need for change and recognizing how we manage conflict currently. What kind of fighter are you?
Do you avoid conflict at all costs?
Do you feel that any criticism or disagreement is an attack on you?
Do you ‘hit below the belt’ and regret it later?
Do you feel out of control when conflict arises?
Do you withdraw and become silent when you are angry?
Do you store up complaints from the past?
If you can identify with one or more of these, it can be helpful to learn more about assertiveness. Assertive Communication is the best way to deal with someone who has violated your rights. It allows you to express yourself in a respectful way and can help manage conflict more effectively. Strategies involve expressing feelings and needs without putting the other person down. Also, being assertive means we have the ability to set boundaries respectfully and we can be direct and honest without fear.
If we act assertively, we do not have to be afraid of conflict – we can welcome it and manage it. If you would like to develop skills in managing conflict and acting assertively, contact Aziza Giga-Hirji to help pave a path forward.
Aziza Giga-Hirji MSW, RSW specializes in the areas of stress management and communication, as well as many others. For more information on Aziza, her work, or other articles she’s written for Living Well click here to link to her full bio page.