dealing with conflict, conflicy management, anger, resentment“Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”—William James

Conflict is never an easy thing to deal with and be quite stressful. Old, deeply rooted conflicts can really affect your life and how you relate to day to day life. When you allow a past conflict to turn to resentment and become a defining part of a relationship, it can be challenging to move forward, but it's not impossible. It's just a matter of taking the right conflict resolution approach.

Look at the Conflict with an Open Heart and Mind

Many times a past conflict can be resolved by simply looking at it with a fresh, calm perspective.  When you learn how to look at a past conflict without raising your blood pressure or losing sleep, you'll be much more likely to find an amicable resolution.

The first thing you should do is look at the conflict objectively.  You need to raise all of the issues and truly look at the situations from both sides. Keep in mind to be respectful. Actively listen to the other person. Too many times it’s easy to be plotting your next comeback than to actively listen. Remember to focus on the problem, not the person because personal attacks have never solved anything.  If you're having a difficult time communicating, a third-party can help mediate the discussion so that all parties are equally heard.

Use your mutual interests and concerns as a starting point.  For example, if you were fighting with a sibling over a parent's estate, perhaps you were both trying to ensure that the estate was as fair and balanced as possible.  Go forward from this point so that you start at a place where you both agree.

Brainstorm resolutions that everyone can agree on.  Conflict usually occurs when one or both parties sense inequality, so get together and brainstorm ideas that will help you resolve the conflict.  You may find that you are actually building on one another's ideas. That's a good thing! The goal is to come to a resolution that provides mutual gain.

Create standards of how things will be going forward and create all of your agreements surrounding these standards.  This will help to ensure that you don't have the same obstacles in the future.  By setting specific standards, everyone will be able to communicate in the most respectful and effective manner moving forward.

Accept What You Cannot Change

We all hear that we should accept the things that we cannot change, but this is easier said than done. When it comes to past conflicts you should always seek to resolve them first. If you cannot, it's time to accept the things that you cannot change.

Give up control.  When you give up trying to control what is uncontrollable suddenly the stress of dealing with the conflict dissolves. You will feel like a mountain has been lifted off of your shoulders and you may find that you have a whole new look on life as well as the conflict and the person or people involved with it.

Share what you feel.  When you are feeling angry, hurt or upset, try sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or family member. It's easier to move past conflicts when you have sounding boards at your disposal.  You don't necessarily have to talk to someone who was involved in the conflict, just share your feelings openly and honestly. I personally use a journal to help release my feelings. By getting it out of your mind and off your chest, you're able to find peace within your heart. Be careful not to turn the conversation into attacking the other person. Seek resolutions instead.

Look for the positives.  There are always positive things that come from every situation, even the bitterest of all conflicts. For example, you may have realized the importance of communication, interpersonal relationships, or forgiveness.  When you can find something positive about a past situation you'll find that coping with conflict is much easier.

Focus on forgiveness.  When you focus on forgiveness, the pain associated with conflict can dissipate. After all, we all make mistakes from time to time. When you realize that we live in an imperfect world it'll be easier to let go of the hurt feelings and anger associated with the conflict. Forgiveness does not say the other person’s actions were all right. Instead, you free yourself from living in painful resentment from the situation.

For over 25 years in the health care profession, Lisa Birnesser has studied stress relief techniques and have helped hundreds of people reduce stress in their lives. Lisa specializes in stress management coaching by helping people do what matters most every day.

21 thoughts on “Tips for Coping with Past Conflicts”

  1. Terressa Cortez

    Thanks for sharing this great article. Dealing with stress is very hard for many people. I know from persoaln experience it can cause you so much harm.  Its takes its toll on your physical, mental and emotional well being.  Learning tools and techniques for coping is very important.

  2. Hey Lisa–  Wonderful reminders for how to deal with conflict!  I've learned (the hard way) that I often need to wait or sleep on something before responding to it.  Often, things do look much differently in the morning. 🙂

  3. Oh Lisa Lisa Lisa!  For 3 days I've been in conflict with member of my family that has re-emerged.  We've been in conflict for 15 years.  I am going to print this out and apply!  Thank you!

  4. Conflicts are a part of life, but I sure don't like them!  Learning to "let go and let God" has continued to help me when I am trying to control a situation.  Nice post with fantastic tips.  Thanks!

  5. Great article Liz! Totally agree with you that there are times when nothing will resolve a conflict and you just have to accept that you can't change things. You'll drive yourself crazy if you don't let it go. Thanks!

  6. Sorry Lisa … didn't mean to mess up your name. I guess I need coffee more than I thought I did. Forgive me?

  7. Great advice Lisa! I especially love the point about giving up control. Sometimes we try too hard to hold on to things, we cannot control and this is what creates a lot of stress. When we let go and release this need, magic happens and all falls into place. I've experienced myself this many times. 🙂

  8. Wonderful article Lisa.   I agree with you that forgiveness is a freeing act.  Even if the person that hurt you does not ask for forgiveness, I think doing it for yourself is key. Forgiving, letting go, and learning!  

  9. These are good points for resolving any kind of conflicts, whether past or current.  Your advice always brings to mind a cool head and a calm attitude, which go a long way toward peaceful resolution.

  10. This is another great article.  Conflict is so difficult to handle, but it's true, the best way of dealing with it is attitude, and of course, facing it head on =)

  11. Lots of great ideas here! I like that you set up a process to find solutions and then end with the idea of letting go what you can't change.

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    I avoid conflicts whenever I can. Sometimes it is better to just meet them and deal with them in an honest way.

  13. Accepting what we cannot change is a great life lesson and one that has been serving me well for near 15 years 🙂 Love it!

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