Handling Relationship Conflict


Conflict in relationships is inevitable, but you can learn to manage it and use it to catalyze growth. One of the best ways to make conflict more productive is to prevent your immediate reactions and action urges from having too much influence on what you say and do. For example, you can feel angry, but choose not to say something hurtful. When an emotion or action urge arises, you can press pause, notice your reactions, and choose your response.

Press Pause > Notice > Choose Response

Press Pause

Create space between what you are responding to (such as something the other person said, your own thoughts and feelings) and your response. Examples:

  • Take a break
  • Count to 10
  • Leave the room


Notice typical urges and reactions. Notice if you have urges to lash out or withdraw. Examples:

  • Lashing out: Blaming, getting louder, yelling, threatening, criticizing
  • Withdrawing: Getting quieter, walking away, pouting, not responding

Notice your feelings. Notice if you are blaming or being critical of the other person or yourself. Blaming the other person only serves to feed the anger; blaming yourself can lead to feelings of guilt or shame.

Notice thinking traps. Notice if your mind falls into ineffective patterns of thinking. Examples:

  • I’m right
  • I’m the victim
  • I must win, you must lose
  • I must defend myself

Choose your response based on your values

What qualities do you want to bring to your relationships? How do you want to behave? What do you want to stand for? Examples:

  • Love, compassion, affection, connection
  • Generosity, kindness, support
  • Trust, honesty, respect
  • Acceptance, willingness
  • Ease, having fun

Communication Suggestions

  • Start conversations gently
  • Communicate respect
  • Try to see the other person’s perspective; ask questions to learn more
  • Validate the other person’s experience
  • Show empathy; show that you understand them
  • Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice
  • Express yourself using “I feel” statements
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable; share your authentic self

Printable version

Printable worksheet