In life, conflict is unavoidable. Part of being human is that we don’t always groove with other people. You can be the easiest-going person and I guarantee that there is going to be someone who rubs you the wrong way.
It doesn’t matter if it’s us or them—conflicts arise. As we’ve grown older, we’ve learned to either avoid the conflict, blow up about the conflict, or gossip about the conflict.
The CUI's Hannah Morrison discusses conflict in this week's College Column. (CU Independent Illustration/Robert R. Denton)
Now that you’re in college, it’s time to take a look at strategies for dealing with this. No, conflict is not comfortable. It isn’t fun. But letting it simmer away unaddressed or letting it boil over are not options anymore. We are adults, and it’s time to take the next step and face challenges head on.
Let’s talk it out.
The first and most vital thing you to do is to calm down. I’m not an angry person by nature, but I sometimes have a short fuse. My temper can get the best of me and I end up saying things I don’t mean, digging myself a deeper hole.
Know yourself well enough to understand how you react to conflict. Do you get quiet and timid? Or do you fly off the handle? Do you make your anger or frustration known? Or do you shove it down and cork it?
No matter how you handle conflict, it’s best to take yourself away from the situation to simmer down before addressing it. This is especially important with roommate conflicts—nothing is going to be solved if you start yelling and screaming. Get yourself out of the room and cool off. Take a walk, blast angry music, pump some iron, write—whatever will harness your temper.
Don’t forget to breathe deeply. Remember that your anger, your sadness, and your frustration are totally and completely valid. It isn’t wrong to feel how you feel. It’s what you do with your feelings that matters. Trust yourself. Know that you are capable of anything, and that includes dealing with a challenging situation.
Now comes the hard part: talking it out. This is an important step. It doesn’t matter if the conflict is with someone you live with, your best friend, or your significant other. Not saying anything and praying it’ll pass over is just as unproductive as screaming. Plus, packing away negative emotions is not good for your mental health. If you don’t say anything, the conflict will stew. The tension is going to increase and the next thing you know, you’ve got an elephant trying to sit in your lap.
Don’t text them. That’s cheating. Plus, texting implies that you don’t really care if it gets resolved, you just want it out of the way as quickly as possible. Calling is okay, but talking in person is best. If it’s with a roommate, don’t talk it out in the room, go somewhere neutral. Walking can sometimes be really helpful—it keeps you moving and sometimes makes the conversation flow more easily.
Be honest, but be kind. There are ways to say how we feel without putting blame on anyone. Avoid using the phrase “You made me feel …” No one can make us feel anything. We are in control of our feelings.
Saying “I felt” or “I feel” helps you keep ownership over your emotions. If you are at fault, apologize, and be as sincere as you can. But remember to not take on blame that you do not deserve. Apologize for actions, not for how you feel.
But sometimes, things don’t work out. Sometimes conflicts bring out differences rather than bringing people closer together. Remember that as adults, we get to choose who is in our lives. We have the ability to decide which relationships are worth preserving and the ones that need to be let go. If that needs to happen, then let go with grace.
If this is a roommate conflict and you have done all you can to resolve it, consider changing rooms. It is not admitting defeat, this is self-care. You don’t want to remain in a situation that makes you feel worse.
Conflict can be hard. It demands that you show some vulnerability, whether you’re expressing your feelings or you’re apologizing for hurting someone else’s. But conflict can also bring people closer. It can create connection and trust. Believe that you can work conflict out with the person you care about and that they’ll love you no matter what.
Now take a deep breath and go talk it out.
Contact Independent Staff Writer Hannah Morrison at Hamo7004@colorado.edu.
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