“My housemate left all her dirty dishes in the sink again! She’s so inconsiderate!”
“My research professor keeps giving me more responsibilities without considering I have other courses and obligations.”
“Another group project where I’m getting saddled with most of the work…”
Conflict is a part of life. You might experience conflict with friends, family members, professors, co-workers, and even strangers. Conflicts arise naturally whenever human beings interact. Many people associate conflict with anger and hurt feelings, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you practice healthy ways to handle conflict, the process can build trust and support emotional growth. It’s a great skill to learn, and for better or worse, you’ll likely have opportunities to practice it during your time at UW.
Before you begin plotting revenge against your messy housemate, recognize that each of us – including you – has a personal history that impacts our emotional reactions to conflict. Negative feelings sometimes lead to old habits, such as
None of these strategies is an effective way to handle conflict, and such reactions (e.g., dumping your housemate’s dirty dishes on her bed or telling your research professor, “I quit!”) do us and our relationships more harm than good. Changing these habits requires practice.
A healthy approach to conflict involves getting out of your reptile brain – the part that controls your automatic impulses – and into your prefrontal cortex, the part that allows you to think rationally. When you are first faced with a conflict, do a quick stress check on yourself. Try your best to relieve the stress you’re experiencing in the moment (you can physically soothe yourself with deep breaths), and check in with your emotions: Are you feeling angry? Scared? Don’t let your emotions overwhelm or take control of you. If you need a moment (or days) to collect yourself, take that time. A large part of healthy conflict management is the ability to notice your feelings, self-regulate, and make sure you’re capable of communicating your needs.
Try practicing these four crucial strategies for managing and resolving conflict:
Remember, conflict is not a bad thing. We do not have to be afraid of confrontation. Conflict management requires patience, both for ourselves and for other people, but mindful practice of this skill is an invaluable tool.
The Husky Experience Toolkit is designed to help you make the most of your time at UW, wherever you are in your university career. The articles address four interconnected dimensions of the Husky Experience: Know Yourself, Know the World, Make Your Way, and Weave it Together.