Although conflict can be a normal part of our relationships and is ‘healthy’ if well-handled, it can sometimes escalate and become destructive.
Conflict can occur when a disagreement can’t be easily resolved. We often feel strong emotions when a disagreement continues. It may be hard for you to keep a clear head and listen to others while experiencing strong feelings. Listening to the other person’s point of view may be even harder.
It’s normal for people to respond differently, some people want to retreat and hide, physically or emotionally, when faced with conflict. Other people may become stubborn in their need to get their own way.
To manage conflict in a healthy way, it’s important to be aware of how you respond to conflict and ask yourself if you could handle it differently.
How do you approach conflict?
- Do all people involved feel heard, including you?
- Is the conflict leading to compromise (win-win) or a confrontation (win-lose)?
- Is the communication respectful?
- Are you listening and thinking before responding or just reacting?
- Does the communication have positive or negative outcomes?
When conflict escalates, it can become impossible to consider the other person’s perspective. This might be the time to bring in a third person, such as a counsellor or mediator. MensLine Australia can refer you to agencies that offer these services in your area.
Some issues to be aware of:
- No one has the right to abuse another person, and no one should accept it. Physical or emotionally controlling behaviour is never OK.
- Physical violence against anyone is illegal.
- The responsibility for your communication lies with you alone. No one can make you say or do anything. You always have a choice in how you can react.
- Restricting or controlling another person’s life is never acceptable.
- If this is what you are doing, or if this is being done to you, it might be time to talk to someone about it.
Some useful tips for handling conflict:
- Keep an open mind, listen to the other person’s point of view and work hard to understand what they’re trying to say.
- Respect the other person’s point of view, even if it’s difficult to hear.
- Look for areas where you can compromise – what is the most important and least important thing to you?
- Try to keep your communication respectful. Avoid insulting or putting others down.
- Use “I” statements such as: “When you say that, I feel…”
- If things are heating up, ask for a time out. Come back to the discussion when both of you are calmer.
- If old patterns of communication aren’t working, try new ones.
- Try to communicate through a different medium, such as email.
- Commit yourself to making positive changes to the way you handle conflict.
This page is available for download: MensLine Australia Tip Sheet – Managing conflict PDF: 32KB
Further information on relationship conflict can be found in the latest Relationships Australia booklet:
Renovate your Relationship (PDF: 8.46MB)
Renovate your Relationship is a booklet about men maintaining their relationships and is designed to get men to think about the practical side of relationship maintenance and how to do it. This resource has been created and updated by Relationships Australia Victoria (RAV) and MensLine Australia. RAV has over 70 years’ experience providing family and relationship support services across Melbourne and Victoria and is committed to inclusivity, providing safe, inclusive and accessible services for all people.
MensLine Australia has professional counsellors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing confidential and anonymous information and support for all relationship issues.