Turning Conflict Into An Opportunity For Growth

Written by on February 19, 2015 in Adaptability

Turn Conflict into OpportunityI can’t help but wonder sometimes how much richer and less stressful life might be if we were taught at an early age the skills to understand and manage conflict and disagreements.

Most of us develop our conflict resolution style by default through the influence of our families and, for better or worse, by toughing it out in school. And yet, conflict and disagreements are not only inevitable, how we handle them – or don’t – can have a significant impact on the quality of our relationships and overall happiness throughout our lives.

He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of a diplomat. ~Robert Estabrook

Fortunately, it’s never too late to begin cultivating the ability to use self-awareness, respect and compromise to effectively avoid or resolve conflict and disagreements and strengthen relationships in the process.

7 Steps to Turn Conflict into an Opportunity for Growth


As with any form of self-improvement, growth begins by understanding your current reality. Can you identify which of the following basic approaches best represents how you typically manage conflict and disagreements?

  • Accommodate: Letting the other person have their way.
  • Avoid: Essentially pretending the conflict never happened or doesn’t exist.
  • Collaborate: Requires listening to the other side, and looking for creative solutions without concessions.
  • Confront: Standing your ground, refusing to yield.
  • Compromise: Agreeing to negotiate toward a win/win solution.

Each of the basic approaches to conflict has their pros and cons, and may be suitable depending upon the circumstances, but it’s important to be aware that most people have a “default” style they have developed over time.

Identifying your particular default resolution style will enable you to do the internal work to honestly evaluate how it has worked for you up to now, and then begin to explore the full range of options available to help you manage conflicts. With this knowledge you may then choose to strengthen, change or expand your conflict management skills accordingly.

Identify Your Triggers

We each have areas where we feel particularly sensitive or vulnerable but you can learn to minimize their destructive effects. Begin by making a list of your “hot buttons” – events or topics of conversation that trigger a defensive response – and then decide how you could respond to each of these triggers in an empowering rather than destructive way.

Actually create a script to help you mentally prepare for controlling your frustration (or anger) when these issues arise, and then practice it until you feel comfortable without using your script. It won’t take long for your new calm and confident response to become second nature and those hot buttons will gradually lose their power over you.

Cultivate Stress Relieving Tactics

Funny things happen when we get pissed off – our stress level ramps up, rapid breathing ensues, and we stop listening to anything but our natural instincts for fight or flight. Awareness is the key here because if you can train yourself to recognize the first signs of your elevating stress level you’ll be able to quickly respond by taking a few deep breaths to return to a state of calm. If you need to, walk away and put yourself on a temporary “time out.”


As simple as this sounds, very often when a disagreement occurs each party is so anxious to make their point and stand their ground, neither is actively listening to the other. Practicing the “shut up and listen” technique can work wonders to quickly and effectively take control of the situation.

Choose Your Battles

“Life is simply too short to get sucked into unnecessary conflicts” is the mantra of those who have a preference toward avoiding conflict. If working through a disagreement is more important than maintaining the status quo, then you should speak up. On the other hand, if the debate is going to create more problems than it solves, you may choose to remain silent, change the subject or simply agree to disagree.

You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel. ~Johnny Depp

But before you become too vested in this approach to conflict management it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes what appears to be random conflicts are actually tipping points signaling a far bigger, more serious issues that, for whatever reason, you have been unable – or unwilling – to confront. If you find the number and frequency of seemingly inconsequential conflicts increasing, then it’s time to take a closer look at what’s really going on to avoid much bigger problems in the future.

Find a Point of Agreement – Even if it’s to Disagree

Focus on one issue at a time and try to find something to agree on, even if it’s that you agree that it’s okay to disagree. When you stop trying to “defeat your opponent,” you’ll be more receptive to good ideas and resolve conflicts quicker.

Admit it When You’re Wrong

Admitting you’re wrong can be tough to the point of painful for those hung up on always being “right,” but the truth is no one is perfect, so odds are that at some point in your life you will be wrong. Try to see things from the other person’s perspective and think about what might make you feel better, then bite the bullet and take your lumps. The good news is that if you are sincere, you’ll find it much easier to begin rebuilding any lost trust.

Moving Past Conflict

Learning to manage conflict and disagreements is an invaluable opportunity for personal growth. Best of all, the more effective you become at it, the less stress you will experience when conflicts do arise, and the stronger and more fulfilling your relationships will grow as a result.

How about you? If you have any tips or strategies to manage conflict and disagreements that you’d be willing to share, please take a moment to share in a comment below.

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.


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  1. Kimba

    Marty, this is so timely for me. I’ve been mentoring some young women who are just entering government work. One asked me: what would you do differently? My answer surprised her: I would have talked less, listened more. When you enter the workforce, you’re so eager to make your mark and prove your worth – this can bite you in the butt. Accommodation does not equal defeat, it shows maturity and the ability to see past your own self interest. Not an easy lesson for the young.
    Kimba recently posted…Dollars to DoughnutsMy Profile

  2. Hi Marquita ,
    I think the better we know ourselves ,the easier we can deal with conflicts. I like the compromise, do not mind to admit if I am wrong and a deep breath or walk in the nature often make things easier. I agree conflict is an opportunity to grow. I too like Johnny Depp’s quote 🙂
    Thank you for the very nice post
    Erika Mohssen-Beyk recently posted…How To Deal With Toxic PeopleMy Profile

  3. You have so many great points and listening is probably the hardest one to do with conflict. Sometimes I feel I need to step away from the situation by going into another room to collect my thoughts before I speak. It helps me to not jump into the argument and say something I may regret. Many times when I’ve done this I usually become relaxed enough to become open to listening. Thanks so much for reminders Marty!
    Lillian De Jesus recently posted…How To Create Free Ebook Downloads & PDF Worksheets Using CanvaMy Profile

    • I know what you mean Lillian and about the value of some distance. I experienced anger “issues” when I was younger and learning to give myself a “time out” was an invaluable bit of advice from my therapist – something I still do even now. Thanks for contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  4. Hi Marquita,

    What a great post and solutions to disagreements. This reminds me of the solution my husband and I came up with. We had this T-shirt with the word “Cranky” on the back and if either of us were in a bad mood or just wanted the other to leave us alone, we would put on the shirt and each knew to stay away until the shirt came off (which usually was maybe an hour or so).

    The neighbors thought we were funny but it worked for us. We agreed to disagree and the shirt was our problem solver.
    Monna Ellithorpe recently posted…Is There Money Hidden In Your Computer?My Profile

  5. Suzie Cheel

    Listening came up for me as a really big thing in resolving conflict. That also means letting go of the need to be right!- I know I have grown as I can remember always wanting to win!
    Being able to see both sides objectively xx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…How to Create A Rush Of Love To YOU!My Profile

  6. Marla

    Another great post Marty, thank you. I admit that I have spent a lot of time over the years in fight or flight mode – a default pattern I still fall into when I’m not staying present and focused on my intention. Our family tries to live by the motto (I don’t remember where I first heard it) “you can be right, or you can be kind”. This doesn’t mean caving in or avoiding. It speaks to your point about choosing your battles. And I think it helps to separate the person from their viewpoint/action.
    Marla recently posted…Introvert Wisdom & An Insight From the BeachMy Profile

    • Thank you so much for your kind words Marla, and I love your family motto! I certainly agree with the value of picking one’s battles. It’s so easy to turn the proverbial ant hill into a mountain, especially if we’re not aware our our emotions. Always appreciate your contribution to the conversation. 🙂

  7. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty, What a great article, I know I have some issues that I do need to iron out and this post has really helped to get me in the right direction. As you have stated I an going to begin with my list of hot buttons and then take it from there.
    I agree this is a great starting point for me.

    Thanks for sharing and do have a great weekend. Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…Can You Really Make Money Online From The Comfort Of Your Home?My Profile

    • Glad you found the article helpful Chery and I’m glad to hear you’re going to look into identifying your triggers. It can be overwhelming sometimes trying to figure out where to start, but there are always signposts if we just take the time to look for them. 🙂

  8. Trina Johnson

    Great advice! Conflict resolution is certainly a sore spot in many relationships. Your pointers on how to handle it better are right on the money. Thanks for sharing.
    Trina Johnson recently posted…Want to Feel Successful? Create Success HabitsMy Profile

  9. I grew up in a home with a lot of conflict so as an adult I used Avoidance and Accommodate. But doing that causes a lot of stress and you begin to feel like a victim. Self-awareness gained through therapy helped me to change my perception of conflict and how I address it. There was so much anger in my home that I was afraid to express my own. But I now understand that when someone hurts you, you have a right to be angry. It’s how you manage the anger that is important. Thanks for your very thoughtful post.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Social Media as a Tool for Character AssassinationMy Profile

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story Jeannette, and I can personally relate to the anger issues you experience. I’m so glad you were able to get help and work through them in time. I appreciate your taking the time to contribute to the conversation! 🙂

  10. Jeri

    Such pertinent important points. I learned many of them the hard way when I grew up with my bipolar mother, but all that strife made me a better and stronger person. Turns out I need those skills to deal with my toad of a hubby. My therapist asked me to read that Codependent No More book, but I did not like it at all.
    Jeri recently posted…Ten Great Things That Can Happen in Your First Year as a Published Author by Gerald FreemanMy Profile

    • So glad you enjoyed the article Jeri, and you know what we have something in common – my therapist suggested I read Codependent No More as well, but having more to do with the residue from my childhood. Personally I got more out of the work I did volunteering than any books or my short-lived association with a therapist – but that’s just me. Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation! 🙂

  11. Dave

    I would say I score an A+ on conflict resolution, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing 😉 Avoid and accommodate (the two A’s) seem to be my modus operandi when it comes to conflict and confrontation. I’m not really sure where the history of this position originates from, but it’s not too healthy – that’s for sure!

    I really like how you turn something as edgy as conflict between two human beings around and view it as an opportunity. And I love the quote from Johnny Depp – truer words have rarely been spoken!

    If I had to aim for one method that I would like to work towards, it would be collaboration. Since it involves honest listening, empathy, and creativity, it is definitely in line with where I would like to be. Sometimes just hearing what you already know in a different way can make a huge difference – thanks for that Marty, well done!
    Dave recently posted…Hot dogMy Profile

    • Hey Dave, I wonder why your profile isn’t showing up lately – seems so wrong since you’re such a valued regular here. 🙁 Anyway, I know what you mean about the value of hearing a message in different ways, in fact that was a highly valuable lesson I learned when I first began working in Japan. Speaking only a little of the language I always had a translator with me during negotiations, but the Japanese have their own style of communicating and it is just about as far from our typical “straight forward” western style as you can get. So I learned to repeat key questions and test for understanding in different ways during our conversations. Quite an education. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and contributing to the conversation!

  12. Mark

    Wow M!

    You simply have a very therapeutic way with words, don’t you?

    What an extremely easy to read and well written article.

    And I love where you shared that we all have a sort of default style of dealing with conflict resolution.That we’ve developed over the years.

    That is a really descriptive way of making us aware of how we’ve come to the point of where we are, with regards to dealing with conflicts of all kinds.

    And I must also admit how much I truly liked that fabulous quote by Johnny Depp.

    And Robert Estabrook’s quote is excellent as well. This was definitely one of my most enjoyable reads!

    Thanks so much! I’ll definitely share it!
    Mark recently posted…Why No Matter What The Local Or National Economy Is Doing Real Entrepreneurs Will Always Thrive!My Profile

    • You are always so kind and generous Mark! I truly appreciate your support, but most of all I am glad to know that you find value in the work here. As always, thanks for taking the time to contribute to the conversation. 🙂

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