Published: Nov. 17, 2022

A group of students with a faculty member Conflict happens. When it comes to a final project, report, or grade in class, disagreements between your group members can be a hindrance to your work. But conflict is normal, and it can even be beneficial.

Conflict can be uncomfortable and challenging for many of us, but there are effective ways to have difficult conversations and navigate disagreements with classmates. Here are some tips for using conflict to have healthy discussions and stop disagreements before they become unmanageable.

Know your conflict style

When you have a disagreement with someone, how do you tend to react? Do you ignore the problem, confront the person, or look for a compromise? Everyone has a different way of approaching conflict, and there is no correct approach—each has its own benefits and drawbacks. It is important to know how you personally deal with conflict and how your style could clash with someone else’s.

Not sure what your conflict style is? If you feel a disagreement beginning, pay attention to any thoughts or behaviors that could fuel your approach to resolving the issue. You can also take this conflict style quiz to learn more.

Address the conflict by communicating effectively

When you disagree with a classmate, communicating can be tough. Emotions can be strong during difficult conversations, and this can cause a minor disagreement to become something bigger than it needs to be.

Take the conflict quiz

Everyone approaches each conflict they experience a little differently. But there are some common themes that might be seen in a person's response again and again. Exploring how you approach conflict can be a great opportunity to learn or refine successful conflict resolution skills. To learn more about your approach, take the Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution conflict quiz! And encourage those around you—roommates, friends, family—to take it, too, so you can learn how to navigate conflict more effectively together.

Communicating clearly can help you focus on the problem instead of getting caught up in your emotions. Remember to use “I” statements to describe how the situation makes you feel, and try framing the issues neutrally to decrease any feelings of blame. Here are some examples:

  • “I feel frustrated when parts of the project are incomplete because we all have a responsibility to help out.”
  • “I feel hurt when my ideas are not taken seriously because I think they could make our report better.”
  • “I am upset that a decision was made without group consensus because we want this to be a collaborative project.”

When sharing your point of view, speak from your own perspective and avoid making assumptions. It is also a good idea to avoid bringing up past issues or making personal attacks.

Also, be sure that the conversation is a two-way discussion. Give your classmate space to share their points of view by acknowledging how they are feeling about the situation. Listen fully to what they are saying without judgment and ask questions to make sure you understand what they are trying to convey. This also helps them feel that they are being heard.

Form connections with others and reach out for help

Strengthening your relationships with your group members can help prevent conflict. It allows your team to focus on the problem by working together to find a solution. Sharing with others allows you to develop empathy and resolve disagreements peacefully.

You can also use campus resources to help your group form those connections and navigate conflict effectively. Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution offers free conflict support including workshops, mediation, and coaching sessions. Sign up for coaching or a general meeting to discuss various resolution options.

Another option is talking with a peer wellness coach, who provides peer-to-peer support to help you navigate concerns related to roommates, relationships, stress, finances, and more. Peer wellness coaches can help you set goals, connect with additional resources, and create personalized self-care plans.