CareAcademy Blog

How to Resolve Conflict

This is the second in a two part series to help in-home professional caregivers learn the fundamentals of professionalism. This article focuses on how to resolve conflict, utilizing good problem-solving skills, which is necessary for anyone to be seen and treated as a professional.

Resolve conflict utilizing good problem-solving skills

Problems or conflicts are a normal part of any healthy relationship. After all, people and teams can’t be expected to agree on everything, all the time.  That is why learning how to resolve conflict, rather than avoiding it, is very important. In fact, when conflict is handled in a respectful, positive way, it can become an opportunity to strengthen the bond between people and groups. Conflict arises from differences, both large and small. These disagreements can trigger strong emotions. Once emotions are involved, it can become very difficult to get the other person or group to see what you are seeing.

Proper problem-solving

The ability to successfully resolve conflict depends on your ability to manage stress quickly while remaining alert and calm; control your emotions and behavior; pay attention to the feelings being expressed; and be aware of differences and respect them.

Tips for managing and resolving conflict

Pay attention to nonverbal communication.

As we discussed in our blog about how to be a better communicator, the most important communication is wordless, expressed by facial expressions, posture, tone and intensity of  voice. Listen for what is felt as well as said. When we listen in this way, we connect more deeply to our own needs and emotions, as well as those of the other person, and may help you figure out what the other person is really saying. A calm tone of voice, a reassuring touch, or an interested or concerned facial expression can go a long way toward relaxing a tense exchange.

Make conflict resolution priority

Rather than winning or “being right,” focus on resolving conflict and coming to agreements that people can live with. Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Be respectful of the other person and his or her viewpoint.

Focus on the present.

If you are holding on to grudges from previous arguments, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be impaired. Rather than looking to the past and blaming someone else, focus on what you can do in the here and now to solve the problem.  
  • Find a point of agreement
  • Acknowledge the other person’s statements.
  • Listen carefully and repeat what you heard
  • Separate the behavior from the person
  • Describe how you feel
  • Describe how this affected you.

Pick your battles.

Resolving conflict can be draining, so it is important to consider whether the issue is really worth your time and energy.

Be willing to forgive.

Resolving conflict is impossible if you are unwilling or unable to forgive. In order to resolve a problem, we need to be able to let go of the urge to punish, which only adds to our injury. Don’t further deplete and drain your life.

Know when to let something go.

If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It tasks two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on. The bottom line in: when you care about someone, you will attempt to resolve conflict with them in a mature, kind way. Be sensitive and respectful. Present the feedback (if to your employer) as a gift, then let the conflict go.  

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Dr. Reddy is a specialist in Internal Medicine & Geriatric Medicine. She holds appointments at Harvard Medical School & Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, MA. She has seen the struggles that families and caregivers go through when caring for adults. Through CareAcademy, she intends to improve people's lives. Dr. Reddy's research is published as journal articles and book chapters. She has also authored a book for family caregivers.

Madhuri ReddyHow to Resolve Conflict

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