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Effective Communication During Conflict: What to Say (Or Not) To Resolve Relationship Issues

Communication is essential to building and maintaining healthy relationships. However, when conflict arises sometimes our emotions can get the best of us in the heat of the moment which can lead to a reactive response.

You or the other person may become defensive, pass blame, shut down, or avoid it altogether. Yet, these emotionally reactive behaviors can make our relationship problems worse and lead to greater frustration, a disconnect, or sabotage the connection.

When resolving a conflict with someone, it's important to communicate effectively and avoid saying things that could make the situation worse. It's best practice to refrain from rehashing the past, manipulating the situation in your favor, creating triangulation with a third party, or only considering one perspective with trying to find a middle ground that honors the relationship.

Here are some things you should avoid saying, as well as some suggestions for what you can say to help resolve the conflict in an amicable, respectful manner:

What NOT To Say:

"You always do this/you never do that" - This can come across as accusatory and put someone down leading to an impasse. They may be less inclined to respond or work together in finding a solution to the issue.

What To Say:

"I understand why you may not have the time to complete this task." - Acknowledging someone's feelings can help them feel heard and validated.

What NOT To Say:

"You're being overly sensitive. It was just a question." - Dismissing someone's feelings will only make them feel disrespected and lead to a power struggle.

What To say:

"Let's work together to find a solution" - This shows that you're willing to work

collaboratively to resolve the conflict by negotiating or compromising to create a mutual agreement.

What NOT To Say:

"It's not my fault" - This is a defensive response that doesn't show accountability on your part. Most relationship issues are a combination of two parties who have some role in the disagreement.

What To Say:

"I'm sorry for my part" - Taking responsibility for your actions can help

de-escalate the situation and show you are willing to work together.

What NOT To Say:

"I don't care" - This can make someone feel like their concerns are unimportant to you.

What To Say:

"Can you help me understand your perspective?" - This demonstrates a willingness

to listen and learn from the other person. When you gain further insight, it allows you to position a solution that may be beneficial for both of you.

What NOT To Say:

"You're just like your (parent/sibling/ex-partner)" - Bringing up past issues or comparing the person you are speaking with to someone else can be hurtful and counterproductive.

What To Say:

"I want to find a way to move forward together. How can we reach an agreement?" - This

reminds the other person that the relationship is important to you and you're committed to

resolving the conflict.

When you communicate effectively, it can build trust, resolve conflict, strengthen the connection, prevent misunderstandings, improve problem-solving, and most importantly set healthy boundaries that meet the growth of the relationship.


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