Published: April 10, 2019

Two women sitting at a table and talking

Conflict happens, and is normal in relationships—whether it’s with a friend, roommate or family member. Conflict can be uncomfortable and challenging for many of us, but there are ways to have difficult conversations and navigate disagreements with others. Here are some tips for how to stop conflict before it starts.

Know your conflict style

When you have a disagreement with someone, what do you do? Do you tend to ignore the problem or avoid the person? Do you confront the person right away? Do you look for 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 own style could clash with someone else’s.

Once you understand how you handle conflict, you can take steps to prevent it and work more effectively with others when it does arise. Not sure what your conflict style is? If you feel a disagreement beginning, pay attention to any thoughts or behaviors that could fuel a negative approach to resolving the issue. You can also take this conflict style quiz to learn more.

Form connections with others

Strengthening your relationships with others can help with preventing conflict. When you have a strong connection with someone, it can be easier to focus on the problem and work together to find a solution rather than assuming the other person is at fault.

Sharing with others allows you to develop empathy and resolve disagreements peacefully when conflict arises. For more on forming strong connections with others, review these three healthy relationship hacks.

What is your conflict style?

Take the Quiz

Communicate effectively

When you disagree with someone, communicating can become tough. During a difficult conversation, you can get caught up in your own emotions rather than focusing on the problem at hand. Communicating clearly can help prevent a minor disagreement from becoming something bigger than it needs to be.

Here are some ways to communicate effectively:

  • Allow the other person to share their point of view without interruption and avoid judgement—even when you don’t agree with what they are saying.
  • Listen as the other person shares their point of view, instead of forming your response to what they are saying in your head.
  • Be mindful of your body language—avoid closing yourself off by crossing your arms while the other person is sharing.
  • When the other person is finished speaking, ask clarifying questions and summarize what was said. This helps you fully understand the situation and lets the other person know they are being heard.
  • When sharing your point of view, speak from your perspective and avoid making assumptions.
  • Share your needs and do not assign blame or shame to the other person. If you resort to blaming, it can force others to become defensive and limit the ability to listen actively. Focus on your needs and observations of the issue.
  • Avoid bringing up past issues, making personal attacks and allowing your emotions to dictate the conversation.

Reach out for help

Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution offers free conflict support services including one-on-one conflict coaching, mediation and facilitated conversations. Learn more about conflict resolution.