The Best Strategies to Resolve Your Personal Conflicts

Personal Perceptions

Personal perception is the interpretation of stimuli, events, or circumstances based on memories or previous experiences. In this article you will be provided with specific resolutions. However, in order for these solutions to work, you must employ them without blame, anger, or hostility. The easiest way to do this is to take a good look at the personal perceptions at play within the conflict. First look at your own perceptions. Are your expectations of the other person too high? Are you demanding something from another that they are simply not able or willing to give? Are you being too inflexible? Next, you need to put yourself in the "shoes" of the other person. See things from their perspective. Is there something in their past that would influence their responses, feelings, or opinions? Do they have a personality type that makes them more likely to be emotional, easygoing, or driven?

Our perceptions are the lenses that we look at life and our relationships through. They are what drive us, and they are what influence our decisions. Each person has their unique perceptions based on their individual experiences and personalities. Ask three siblings about their childhood, and you will often get three different responses. Ask seven people how they interpreted a particular book or movie, and you will get seven different interpretations. In order for you to better understand the people closest to you, it is vital that you understand why they look at things the way they do. This will help you to resolve conflicts and avoid potential conflicts in the future.

There are always at least several ways to resolve a conflict; sometimes there are many answers to one problem. However, this article offers one practical answer to each conflict for you to ponder. There we will offer several other unique ways of solving the conflicts in the seven categories.

1. Two or more parties have differing or opposing agendas, goals or desires.

Remember This Conflict?

You and your fiance have a date for the movies: You want to see the new romantic comedy, but he wants to see the newest shoot-um-up, action adventure flick. As you stand in line discussing which movie to see, you realize that the last time you went to the movies together you compromised and saw the movie of his choice. Now you are beginning to feel a little angry. He should know that it is your turn, he should simply compromise this time as you did last time -- right? But he continues to try and convince you to see his movie. You protest and remind him of your prior compromise, but this does nothing to change his mind. He begins to get angry and can't understand why you are being so stubborn. To avoid an embarrassing full-blown argument in the movie line, you give in again and agree to see the movie he wants to see.

Resolution to Conflict 1:

The girlfriend can go see her movie while her fiance sees his. There is no need for angry outbursts or a full-blown issue to come out of this situation. She could calmly and matter-of-factly say, "You know, I really want you to enjoy your action movie, and I'd really like to see the comedy, so why don't we just split up and meet out front afterwords. We can grab a bite to eat and sit down and talk about the movies we saw." This should work out beautifully because the movies are starting at the same time. Hopefully they are also ending at the same time. If not, one or the other can play video games, or kill some time shopping while waiting for the other.The boyfriend may protest that they came to the movies to be together, however, this aspect is already addressed as they will spend time together having coffee or a bite to eat after the movie. Everyone wins and the conflict is resolved.

2. One party has something the other party wants or needs but he or she will not comply.

Remember This Conflict?

You have a big interview but can't afford to purchase a good suit. You happen to know that your friend, who wears the same size, has a several great suits that he wears to work. You really need this job, so you politely ask if you can borrow one of his suits for the interview. He refuses. You explain that you really need this job and having a good appearance will help tremendously. He reiterates that he doesn't lend out his clothes to anyone, that he only has a few suits, and he really can't spare one. You are upset by his lack of generosity and don't see what the big deal is -- after all, he can't wear three suits at the same time, can he? He is annoyed that you won't take no for an answer and are refusing to understand his point of view -- after all, he thinks, "Why don't purchase your own darn suit; you're going to need something to wear to work if you get the job!"

Resolution to Conflict 2:

To readily resolve this conflict, the "suit borrower" should simply take no for an answer. He should not hold a grudge or harbor any hard feelings toward his friend for refusing to lend out his clothing, and he should be sure to let the friend know this. He could simply call his friend and say, "I'm sorry if I pushed the suit issue, I was in a jam and I didn't realize that you had a no lending policy. No hard feelings?" If the friend is a good one, he will accept the apology and let the matter go. Lending clothing is purely an individual matter and doesn't necessary make the person a bad friend, as long as he is helpful in other areas of the friendship. The problem lies with the "borrower." He asked, he was refused, and now it is up to him to solve his own problem without making his friend feel bad or pressuring him. He has several other options available to him and he should use creative thinking to solve his dilemma. He could rent a suit, borrow money from a parent or family member to purchase a suit, or try to find a reasonably priced suit at a consignment shop. He may even ask this friend for some input on the subject. In any event, he should just file it away mentally that this particular friend doesn't lend out his clothing.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Conflict Resolution Techniques course?

3. The personalities between two people creates tension.

Remember This Conflict:

You are with your sister at a cousin's engagement party. Whenever she is in big groups she tends to become very animated and loves to be the center of attention. This annoys you because she often makes you the brunt of her jokes to get a laugh from strangers and other family members. You see her in the ladies' room and comment angrily that you don't appreciate her making you her "straight-man." You tell her to knock it off and find another way of entertaining the crowd. She tells you that you are being too sensitive and that you are just jealous because she is getting all the attention. She goes back out to the party and continues to make you the brunt of her jokes. You are hurt and embarrassed by her jokes concerning your life, personal flaws, past boyfriends, etc. She is annoyed because she doesn't see the harm in making a few jokes about you -- it's all in good fun.

Resolution to Conflict 3:

This is a difficult conflict because the offended sister -- let's call her "Sister A" -- has already tried to approach the subject with the offending sister -- "Sister B." Unfortunately, the way she confronted the situation created a bigger problem, because she was sarcastic and agitated rather than calm and clear. To resolve this conflict, Sister A needs to first put some distance between herself and the situation, let a few days pass, and give herself time to cool off. After she has had time to see the problem more clearly, she could then choose a quiet, private setting in which to talk to her sister and explain how she is feeling. Sister A should explain using non-blaming "I" statements -- how she feels when her sister makes jokes about her flaws and mistakes. She could say some thing like this:

"I know I flew off the handle at the party the other day. I should have waited until later to talk to you about the situation. I want to tell you now how it makes me feel when you make jokes about my life. I understand that you are just being yourself and that you don't mean me any harm, but it still hurts me when you do this." She could explain to her sister that she feels embarrassed, and that the things she is joking about are private and it makes her uncomfortable when they are shared with others. Unless Sister B has deeper issues, she should understand and stop using her sister for stand-up material in the future. Talking in a calm manner about personality conflicts, and hurt feelings concerning them, will usually resolve these issues. When we approach the other person with anger, hostility, and blame, we are creating more tension and conflict. If, however, we speak calmly and keep to the subject on how we are feeling, this usually creates empathy and fosters understanding. Lastly, if Sister B does have deeper issues and continues in her behavior, then Sister A should stop sharing the details of her personal life with her.

4. Something significant in life, or an ongoing relationship has changed.

Remember This Conflict:

Your husband is promoted at work and while at first this appeared to be great news, you soon realize that he must be away from home much more often than usual. He comes home very late several times a week and must travel on business over weekends at least once a month and sometimes twice a month. When he is home he is tired and stressed and just wants to "unwind." You work also and are having difficulty caring for the children, working all day, and maintaining your home with little or no assistance from him. You tell him that you don't think the new job is working out well as far as the family's quality of life is concerned. He feels that without the extra money he is making from the new position, he will not be able to give his children the things that they need and want. You counter that what they really need is quality time spent with him and furthermore, that you need a partner who is working with you, raising a family. He becomes upset and feels that you are not being appreciative of all his hard work.
Resolution to Conflict 4:

When a big change occurs in life, or in a relationship, it takes time to adjust to the affects the change creates. Sometimes all that is needed is more time for everyone to acclimate to different circumstances. For the wife to be sure that time will not make this situation better, she should create a list of the specific negative issues she and the children are having that were created by the new job. She should also sit down and ask herself if there are any steps she and her husband could take to make things easier on the family. If she is quite sure that no amount of adjustment time is going to lead to an improvement, then she should sit down with her husband and ask him to re-consider his position. To help him to understand the harm his new job is causing his family, she should, as in the last example, speak in "I" statements. She should be sure to tell him that she greatly appreciates his hard work and success and his desire to provide for his family. She could say something like this, "You are a wonderful provider and we all appreciate you and your hard work, but this job is taking you away from us too often and we miss your attention and company. If we work together, create a budget and do without a few luxuries, I think we would still be able to provide the important things to our children, like family vacations, a college education, etc." She could at this point give him the list and explain how she is feeling overwhelmed by all the new responsibilities she has had to take on. If he is not agreeable initially, he should be given a little time to think about things. With big changes such as this, it is hard to simply make a snap decision. He may try to find ways of resolving his wife's problems in a way that allows him to stay in his current position. In either case, alienating a family member with hostility, particularly during stressful times, does not create resolution, but rather creates more distance and difficulty. With a little patience, this conflict can be resolved with clear speech, team work, and a non-blaming attitude.

5. One person betrays the trust of another.

Remember This Conflict?

You confide to a close friend that you are having marital problems, and that you and your husband are considering a divorce. You don't want to make it "public" yet because you are not sure if divorce is imminent, and you don't want the children to know until the decision is concrete. She sympathizes and promises to tell no one. Two weeks later, your son comes home from school very upset and asks you if you and your husband are getting a divorce. You inquire how he heard about this, and he tells you that his best friend (your close friend's son) told him he overheard his parents talking about it the night before. You sit down and explain to your son that you and his father have been having some problems, but that you are trying to work things out. You assure him that if you decide to get divorced, that you will sit down and discuss it with him and his sister first. Then you get on the phone to call your "friend," and give her a piece of your mind. She betrayed your trust, she promised not to tell anyone about your secret. She counters that it was purely accidental; she thought that her son had gone to bed when she was talking to her husband about it and realized, too late, that he was snooping in the hallway. She told her son to keep it to himself, but apparently he didn't. You tell her that she wasn't supposed to tell anyone -- not even her husband. She counters that she tells her husband everything, and that he really doesn't "count," he is very close to your husband and she wanted to share it with him to see if there was some way they could help. She apologizes, but feels that your son finding out was truly an accident. This friend has never done anything like this before, and your family spends a lot of time with their family. Her husband and yours are close friends, and your children are very close as well.

Resolution to Conflict 5:

When someone betrays our trust it is very difficult to ever confide in that person again. Our natural inclination is to label that person "untrustworthy," and not share important matters with them. However, the circumstances of this incident are clearly isolated. This is someone who has been a friend for a long time, both families are close, and the threat of a divorce does effect all parties to some extent. To resolve this conflict, the confider needs to discuss, in person, with her friend the importance of keeping her confidences. She could say something like this, "I understand why you told your husband, and he would have found out eventually, but I really needed you to keep this to yourself for a short while. I needed to confide in someone I knew I could trust. I agree that your son finding out was an accident, but it is one that wouldn't have happened if you had kept my confidence in the first place. If you feel that you cannot keep things from your husband, I will respect that and find another confidant, I just need to know that up front so I don't put on you things that may be too personal." Depending on the friend's reply, the woman will now know if she can trust this person with other private matters, or if she needs to find another person to confide in. In either case the conflict is resolved, and as long as the friend is honest in the future, the friendship can continue on as it was.

6. One person creates conflict by saying or doing something thoughtless or irresponsible.

Remember This Conflict?

You have to work late two days a week at your new job, and your husband doesn't get home until after 6 at night. You need a sitter to walk your two children home from school and care for them for a few hours, or until you get home from work. A retired neighbor, who you know well, offers to take the job for a reasonable rate, and you tell her that you will talk to your husband and get back to her with a decision in the morning. That night, your older brother calls and asks you to give the job to his 15-year-old daughter. She needs to learn some responsibility, earn some extra money, and she would love to do it -- plus, they live close by and it would be simple for her to walk your kids home from school. You agree with his request, thank your neighbor and tell her that your niece will be taking the job. You hire your niece to babysit two times a week, after school for three hours. For the first two weeks, things go smoothly. Your niece is doing a great job, the kids love her, and she's happy to be earning some extra spending money. On the third week, your niece asks if she can bring her boyfriend along with her to baby-sit, and you agree that this is fine as long as she takes good care of the children. When you get home, you see that the house is a total mess, the kids are still in their school clothes, and they tell you they haven't had anything to eat since lunch, except potato chips and soda. Your niece is sitting on the living room sofa watching a movie with her boyfriend, totally oblivious to the situation at hand. You speak to your niece privately and tell her that you don't think it's appropriate for her to bring her boyfriend along again, and you explain why. You tell her you are only going to pay her half of what you usually pay her because she only did half the job she was supposed to. She quietly agrees, but when she gets home she tells her father that you treated her unfairly and did not pay you. Your brother calls and tells you that he thinks you acted unfairly with his daughter and that she won't be babysitting for you any longer. You are very angry and frustrated by your niece's behavior, and your brother's one-sided opinion on the subject. Your niece feels that you agreed to let her boyfriend come over, and that she was being responsible by asking; she is upset that she didn't get paid. Your brother, not having the full story, and being somewhat biased in his daughter's favor, feels that you slighted his daughter. You call your neighbor to see if she is still available, but she is not. You now have no sitter and are in a conflict with your brother and niece, caused by your niece's irresponsible behavior.

Resolution to Conflict 6:

The best way to handle this conflict would be to sit down with the brother and the niece and get the entire story out on the table, so to speak. The brother needs to know that his daughter was acting in an irresponsible manner and was not doing her job, and that was why she didn't get paid her full salary. The daughter/niece, needs to learn what is and is not responsible behavior. If her father is truly interested in having his child become more responsible, then he will have his daughter apologize, make her go back to work for his sister and not allow her to bring her boyfriend along until she has proven she can do her job properly with company present. This discussion should take place right away, but after everyone has had a chance to cool off and be less emotional. The daughter needs to be present while her aunt explains the details to her father, this way the daughter cannot "slant" the story for her father's benefit later on. She will have no choice but to admit to not doing her job, and accepting the consequences of those actions. The sister could say something like this to her brother: "Your daughter did a great job for the first two weeks, and that was why I allowed her to invite her boyfriend along. However, when her boyfriend was there she allowed the kids to trash the house, she didn't have them change out of their school clothes and into their play clothing, and she let them eat chips and soda, rather than make them a healthy snack. This was not our agreement. Since she did not live up to her end of the bargain, I did not pay her for what she did not do. You said you wanted to teach her responsibility, being responsible -- to me -- means doing a job as you agreed to do it." The father will most likely ask his daughter if this is true, to which she will have no choice but to answer truthfully with her aunt sitting right there. If the brother does not suggest it first, the aunt could then say that she has no problem with her niece coming back to babysit as long as she agrees to do the job properly, and not bring her boyfriend along.

7. One person's needs in the relationship are not being met and the other party refuses to acknowledge this lack, or do anything about it.

Remember This Conflict?

Your good friend's long-time boyfriend has recently broken up with her, and she is very upset over this. She really thought he was "the one." She has been talking about it to you constantly in her effort to get over her pain and sadness. She calls you nearly every day and comes to your apartment often to hang out and have dinner. You do your best to be there for her, and listen to her frustrations; sometimes you are on the phone with her for hours discussing this one situation. A month later, you find out that your mother is ill. She needs to have surgery and you are very worried about her. You call your friend to confide in her, but she is out on a date and tells you she'll call you back later. She calls you when she gets home, and you tell her about your mother; she listens for a few minutes, tells you how sad she is for you, but then changes the subject and starts talking about her date. You try to talk about your feelings concerning your mother again and she abruptly tells you that she has to go, she has an early morning at work, and she is really tired. She promises to call you tomorrow. You hang up and are left feeling that the friendship with this person is inequitable. When she needed a shoulder to cry on, you listened and made time in your busy schedule to be there for her, but when you needed her to listen to you; she is suddenly "busy." You realize that her needs are being met in this relationship, but yours are not. A conflict has occurred in this relationship.

Resolution to Conflict 7:

Again, as with the other conflicts, talking about the situation can usually resolve the conflict. We often expect others in our lives to understand how we are feeling by knowing us, or to be able to read our minds, but they simply cannot. We must let others know when we are feeling hurt, angry, or frustrated by their behavior. Thus, the friend needs to discuss with her girlfriend how hurt she is by her lack of availability. She could say something like this: "I really needed you recently when I discovered my mother was ill. I feel that I was constantly available to you when your boyfriend broke up with you, but when I needed you, you were suddenly busy and unavailable. I don't think this is fair, and while I'm sure you didn't intentionally put me off, I need to know that my friendships are reciprocal." If this is a good friend, she will apologize, explain her behavior and offer to make time to sit down and listen to her friend's concerns over her mother. If she is not, it is best to stop investing time into the relationship. If friendships are inequitable at the beginning, they will only continue to be so. There are over 6 billion people in the world; it should not be too difficult to find friends that understand the meaning of give and take.


It is important to allow friends and family the opportunity to rectify a conflict situation, just as we would want them to give us a chance to make up for mistakes, or thoughtless actions. Most often, speaking about the situation, once bad tempers have had a chance to cool, and intense emotions are not running the show, is the best method of resolving most conflict. It is very hard to be the one who brings up a sticky situation, and, indeed, it requires some bravery and courage to do so, but once you get into the habit of resolving conflict, you will find it becomes second nature. The quivery voice that many people get the first time they confront a conflict will soon give way to confidence and assurance that this is the right thing to do. Letting conflicts fester and pile up will ultimately lead to unhappy and unhealthy relationships. We all want to have fulfilling friendships and family bonds, otherwise, what is the point of interacting with others? If you feel that it may be too difficult for you to resolve a big conflict initially, start with smaller situations and see how they turn out. Try to remember to use "I" statements and to not blame, point fingers, or be hostile. With a little practice, you will soon become adept at resolving conflict easily and with confidence.