Feature Image by Priscilla Du Preez

No one is immune to disagreements, but how you react to a difficult situation can make or break a relationship. Depending on who the person is and their relationship to you, there are a number of ways you can handle disagreements that are appropriate for every situation.

“Relationships are not a one-size-fits-all, and it is important to tailor your message depending on the relationship,” says clinical therapist Kelly Bos. “A more formal relationship might require a less emotional response, but if you took that same tone with a close family member, they might wonder what is wrong with you.”

Every type of person close to you requires a different approach, so here’s how to approach conflict with every person in your life.

“When handling conflict with a longtime friend, you may be able to be more direct than with a new friend whose sensitivities are still somewhat unknown,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly. Approach your friend and ask that the issue remains between the two of you. “If you are in a conflict with a friend, make sure you communicate your experience but [also] try to understand where your friend is coming from,” says Bos. After some time has passed, check-in with the friend to make sure that the problem is resolved.

Significant other
“It is as important in your relationship to watch how you say things as much as what you say,” says Bos. “As we are often pretty comfortable in our relationship with our partner, it can also be a place where we show all sides of ourselves and might use a little less self-control in our expressions around conflict.” So try to work as a team to learn how to create healthy communication patterns. “This positive, can-do attitude will help resolve, rather than promote, conflict in the long run,” says Manly.

Family members are usually pretty good at pushing our buttons, but instead of getting heated or focusing on what went wrong in the past, look to discuss ways of fixing things for the future. “Focus on taking a deep breath and keeping calm,” says Bos. “With long relationships can come a long list of examples to support a point. It is important to stay on the topic at hand and talk about how the situation at present is affecting you at this moment.”

If you are in conflict with a colleague, speak to them directly about it. “Too often in workplaces, others get involved, and this can cause a toxic work environment,” says Bos. “If you need to sit down with your co-worker, make sure you are ready to actively listen to address an issue. This should include not just listening but also acknowledging the other person’s feelings or points when they share.”

There’s no doubt that addressing an issue with your boss can be intimidating. Consider speaking using “I” statements rather than accusatory “you” statements. “Speaking from an ‘I’ statement can help to explain the problem from your perspective without assigning blame,” says Bos. “It is important to keep to the facts and away from emotions, keeping it professional if you are able.” It’s also helpful to come with a resolution in mind to provide solutions where you can.

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xx, The FabFitFun Team