How Do You Work Through Conflict?

By Lorna Blake

Addressing conflict can be challenging for many of us. Many times we either ‘fight’ or ‘fly’ depending on how we were raised and how we saw our families of origin deal with issues. ‘Fighting’ and ‘flying’ both lead to alienation and these are aggressive and passive responses respectively.

When we are passive in dealing with conflict we may feel powerless to change what we consider a ‘hostile dynamic’ so we react by withdrawing, retreating or hiding. This often results in blocks to communication. On the other side of the spectrum by acting aggressively to address conflict we react in a way that’s scary and intimidating to others. As a result we stand to alienate the people we’re interacting with.

One of the most empowering ways I know to communicate around conflict is by using assertive behaviors. Using assertive strategies allows us to respond rather than react and we build mutual respect and intimacy rather than alienation.

Becoming assertive requires a very conscious shift in our mindset. We must first recognize that we have rights. This is fundamental to changing unhealthy relationship dynamics and will allow us to gain the respect we desire in our relationships.

1. Recognize your rights. You have the right to:

• Be treated with respect

• Express your own opinion, feelings, thoughts

• Say no

• Decide for yourself what you want

• Make mistakes

• Be yourself

2. Assess what’s happening. Determine how to respond assertively rather than react to the situation. Whenever possible take a deep breath, think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Where possible, write down what you’re planning to say and practice. It’s best to discuss the issue with the other person when you’re calm and in control of your emotions.

3. Express how you feel using “I statements”. Take responsibility for your own feelings. For example, “I feel upset when you shout at me.”

4. Focus on future action instead of on the situation that just occurred. For example, “In future I would like you to speak to me in a calm voice.”

5. If you feel you’re still not being heard, you may try the technique of ‘escalating’.

Use your hand like a stop sign, stand in your power and in a firm voice say: “I would like you to stop…” Pause for effect.

-If you’re still not being heard say something like: “I have asked you to stop and it seems you’re not listening. If you choose to continue I’m going to be forced to ….” (leave the room, stop communicating with you until you are willing to be respectful, etc). Choose an action that makes sense in the situation and follow through with what you say you’re going to do if you’re not being heard.

6. Seek Respect. Your goal is not to be liked. It’s to be respected. Once you understand this you can begin to express your feelings and open the lines of communication with people you interact with. This creates greater intimacy and mutual respect in your relationships…

Lorna Blake is a powerful, positive and inspiring empowerment specialist. She has over 10 years experience in helping people take charge of their lives and achieve their goals. Lorna has a degree in Social Work and is certified as a teacher. Combining her professional training with her own life experiences in overcoming adversity, she brings a unique brand of expertise to life coaching. You can read more from Lorna at