Chapter 1 - Relationships Subchapter: Groups

Dealing with conflict within groups

Differences of opinion are a completely normal part of life. As your identity, interests and opinions develop, it’s likely that you will experience conflict with others that have different views to you.

Sometimes it can be hard to work out what is a normal conflict, what isn’t, and how to successfully deal with these situations.

The transition from childhood towards adulthood brings many physical and emotional changes. You may also notice increased conflict as you become more independent from your parents, family and childhood friends. With increased independence, your rights and responsibilities change. Conflict during this period can become more frequent and increasingly difficult to manage.

An awareness of effective strategies to help resolve conflict is vital to ensuring all our relationships remain healthy and respectful.

 

Managing conflict

Spilt-frame of two people quietly at a table, then four people in a healthy and respectful discussion.

 

Conflict with a friend, sibling, parent, teacher or other adult is normal. But there are things you can do to stop any conflict from getting worse.

 

Communication is key. Learning how to communicate effectively and respectfully with family, friends and others is an essential skill.

 

We all need to feel like others are listening when we speak, but it’s equally important to manage our emotions so we can listen to others. When one person stops listening, the likelihood of conflict increases. Even in times of conflict, it’s essential that everyone involved feels that their words are heard.

We are all individuals with different thoughts, feelings, ways of doing thing, experiences and expectations. Sometimes these differences might look trivial, but when conflict triggers strong feelings and emotions, these situations can become tough to manage. 

We won’t agree with everyone all of the time. What’s important is that we treat each other respectfully by trying to understand each other’s perspective and to communicate our needs and wants in a way that doesn’t violate the other person’s rights.

 

Conflict avoidance can be unhealthy as well

To communicate confidently and respectfully, you should try to stay calm and not get too angry.

Some people are quick to anger, others will do whatever they can to avoid a tense situation. When a person hides their true feelings or is reluctant to express their own opinions for fear of a negative reaction, the person could be disrespecting themselves.

 

A diagram explaining how to be assertive without being either passive (disrespecting yourself) or aggressive (disrespecting others). Text reads: protecting your thoughts, ideas & territories while respecting other’s rights, feelings & thoughts.

 

Others may influence or pressure you into speaking or acting in a way that goes against your values and beliefs. When this happens, your self-identity can be undermined.

People pleasing is where one person gives in to another person’s wants and needs to avoid conflict. You might say yes to something when you really want to say no. Or you might modify your preferences to fit in with the rest of the group. When we people please, we compromise our own wants and needs to avoid conflict with others.

Any situation involving conflict presents challenges. Sometimes the thought of speaking up about what we want or need (particularly to say ‘no’) can feel uncomfortable, even daunting. A fear of disappointing people can lead to giving into the needs of others instead of prioritising yourself and what is best for you.

 

Learning to be assertive

Split-frame of an illustrated character practising saying no in the mirror, then being able to say no in a real social situation.

 

It takes practice to develop strategies for effective communication, particularly when there is potential for conflict.

The first time you say no, you may feel uncomfortable, even anxious. Try to accept this will likely happen and sit with the feeling. It will get easier with time and practice.

Practice in front of the mirror. Create some scenarios or write down how you could have said no to situations that have occurred in the past.

Start your sentences with ‘I’ and calmly explain what you feel or need without apologising for yourself.

 

Remember, there is nothing wrong with saying no. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person or hard to please.

 

Different opinions are healthy and act as learning opportunities.

Learning to resolve conflict effectively helps us to negotiate and reach compromises, building strong and healthy relationships throughout life.