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Conflict Is Inevitable But Necessary. Here's How to Stay Calm During an Argument and Rebuild Afterward. Navigating conflict with people we care about, both at work and at home, can be tough. But if you follow these five steps, it will be much easier — and you'll also preserve the relationship.

By Amy M Chambers Edited by Kara McIntyre

Key Takeaways

  • 1. Slow the conflict down so you can consciously choose your response.
  • 2. Figure out what the conflict is really about.
  • 3. Don't make assumptions.
  • 4. Put the conflict in perspective.
  • 5. Remember: You're on the same team.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Conflict is normal. I don't know anyone who gets along with their spouse, boss or best friend 100% of the time. However, some people find themselves in conflict far less often than others, and when they do, it's not as severe.

Some people also recover from conflict more quickly and easily. If you'd also like to minimize the frequency and duration of conflict in your life, here are five things you can do to start.

Related: Why You Can't Shake Off That Last Argument

1. Slow the conflict down so you can consciously choose your response

This might sound counterintuitive, but those who process conflict the quickest often extend the gap between stimulus and response. They often slow the conflict down and may even ask to take a break from it. When you give yourself a little extra time to think, something happens in your brain: You invite and enlist your conscious mind to participate in the decision-making process about how you'd like to respond.

People who regularly ask for a few minutes (or sometimes longer) to think and process what they've heard before responding often respond better. That's because having a bit of extra time allows us to develop deliberate intentions around how we want to respond. Anytime you feel yourself getting angry or upset in a tough conversation, ask permission to regroup. You might ask for a few minutes to use the restroom or walk around the block. During that time, you're able to reset and ask yourself key questions, such as: "Is this how I want to show up right now? Is this response helpful or harmful to the relationship? How can I best express myself right now?"

Anytime we get to respond with these things in mind, we're less likely to say things we don't mean and regret our response later. In especially complex situations, you might even ask for a few hours or days. Taking a pause in tough conversations helps us choose immensely better responses.

2. Figure out what the conflict is really about

Ask yourself what the conflict is really about (for both yourself and the person you're feuding with). This lays the foundation for the care and understanding of both parties. Most of us can reflect to having snapped at someone unnecessarily just because we were having a bad day. Getting to a true understanding of what the conflict is really about (for both parties) is a key way of ensuring you're arguing for good reason.

If you feel yourself getting upset, ask yourself why. Get to your true feelings. Saying, "I don't want you to go out with your friends tonight because you do that a lot" is far different than saying, "I was really hoping for some alone time together tonight because I don't feel we've had much of it lately." If you've got an objection to someone's idea, be sure to be honest with yourself (and them) about what your objection really is. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable in admitting what's truly on your heart. Conflict is best resolved when everyone is willing to dig deep and share their true worries or fears.

3. Don't make assumptions

Conflicts often escalate because people are working with limited information and make poor assumptions. During times of conflict, it makes far more sense to assume the best of others, not the worst. Yet, when we're feuding with people, we tend to do the opposite. You'll have a lot less conflict in life if you don't assume people are out to get you. Your colleague might've forgotten to copy you on an email that went to your boss, but that doesn't mean she's trying to undermine your credibility. Your spouse might've forgotten your birthday, but that doesn't necessarily mean he doesn't love you anymore. Assuming other people care about us, are generally trying to do the right thing and have their own challenges and struggles can help us not feel so offended or take things so personally.

Related: How to Address Problems Directly Without Being a Jerk

4. Put it in perspective

Anytime you're about to fly off the handle, pause and ask yourself the following questions: "How big of a deal is this, really? How much does this matter in the grand scheme of things? How long am I likely to even remember this?" Sure, you can get hopping mad that the barista at Starbucks misspelled your name or that Bob parked in your spot (again), but how much do these things really matter? If you're likely to forget what you were mad about in the first place by the upcoming weekend, then let it go. It's like Buddha said: "Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."

5. Remember: You're on the same team

Sometimes, when we're feeling upset by what we're hearing, we forget that we're on the same side as the person we're arguing with. At work and at home, we generally want the same outcomes as those around us. Most of us want to be happy, accomplish key goals, celebrate those wins with those we care about and have some fun along the way.

When we're in a disagreement with someone we love, it's easy to feel we're in a battle with one another. This is a mistake. Conflict is best resolved when everyone approaches it from the same side of the table or fence. Useful tip: When you take your pause or break from the conversation, take a few moments to remind yourself why you admire, respect or love the person you're arguing with. Make a short list of specific things they do that you're grateful for. It's harder to feel you're at war with someone who you feel positive about and like.

As I've grown wiser, I've learned that the healthiest relationships don't have an absence of conflict. Rather, they have a foundation for moving through conflict respectfully and authentically. When we take the time to follow these five steps, we often find that much of our conflict can be quickly resolved.

Amy M Chambers

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Executive Coach, Life Coach, and #1 International Bestselling Author

Amy Chambers spent 21 years in financial services and has 15 years of experience in leadership, leading over 500 people to success. She's the author of the #1 international bestselling book, The 7 V.I.R.T.U.E.S. of Exceptional Leaders. She completed her undergrad at Notre Dame and her MBA at USC.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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