Information Centre

Resolving differences

Communication Couples

We’re all going to have differences with people from time to time, even (or sometimes especially) our closest friends.

There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with people on small stuff, andit can be good to hear different views on things.  But, when you leave a disagreement unresolved with people you see regularly, it can start to get in the way.

Approaching someone to resolve things or move on after an argument isn’t always an easy thing to do, especially if it’s been going on for a while.  There are ways to do it that work.

Conflict can arise for any number of reasons:

  • You might be having trouble understanding someone else’s perspective on an issue
  • You might have different beliefs and values to someone else
  • Your needs might conflict with their needs
  • You might not be happy about how they’re treating you
  • You might be feeling stressed or angry about something else entirely and it’s making you confrontational.

Resolving your differences

Approach the person.  If you’re having a disagreement with someone, talk to them about it.   Approach them in a constructive way, thinking about the points you want to express and how you can solve the problem rather than win the argument.  It’s more effective if you’re calm and not angry.

If it’s a good friend or someone you’re close to, you should feel comfortable asking to have a chat about whatever you’re arguing about, even if it’s a bit awkward at first.

In some cases though, if you’re in conflict with someone you’re not so comfortable with, think about how safe it is to approach them.  Talking to them in public might mean they’re less likely to lose their temper, to be violent or abusive.  If you’re worried they might react like violently, it might be best not to resolve it face-to-face.  Talk to them over the phone or send an email.

(Note: If the person is violent towards you, maybe have a think about whether you want to resolve the relationship or friendship at all. 

See the other person’s side

To help understand why you’re disagreeing, ask questions about their point of view.  Empathy, the act of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, is one of the best tools you can use in any conflict.

If you were in their shoes, how would you feel?  Think about it.

Explain how you feel

Just like you should think about how they feel, try to explain how you feel and why.  They might not have thought about the issue from your perspective.

Allocate time for each of you to talk It can be easy to slip back into an argument while you’re trying to resolve it.

One way to help avoid this is by giving each other time to highlight each point of view.  It may be easier to write your point of view down. You can both read it and think about what the other has said.  This way you can come back and discuss it.

Agree to disagree

Sometimes the best thing can just be to agree to disagree, especially if the differences between you don’t affect day-to-day stuff.

Different people are going to have different opinions to you, and sometimes you just have to accept that.

When it’s serious – use a mediator

If you’re in a situation where the conflict is serious and getting in the way of every day life, you may need someone else to help you resolve a disagreement.

Asking a third person to act as a mediator can help you both get another perspective on the disagreement.  Friends, a counsellor, a psychologist or a youth worker are people who are able to act as mediators. 

Conflict at work or school

If one person in a disagreement has more power over the other person, it can be tough to talk it out, because you can’t always be open.

At work or school it can be even more difficult . In these situations it is useful to find out if there is a conflict resolution policy in your school, college or workplace.

There may be people who can advise you on the right procedures to follow if direct negotiation with the person is not working for you.