Managing Conflict

Diane McGeachy

Gestalt Psychotherapist

Hobart, Tasmania

Relationships are a fundamental part of being human. With human connection also comes difference and at times conflict in our personal and professional life. Differences are healthy and part of what makes life interesting and vibrant. If met with openness and curiosity it can enable us to grow, learn and evolve. 

Conflict itself is not problematic and in fact it can be very healthy and useful. The way conflict is handled is what determines whether it is harmful or useful. Conflict can be constructive or destructive depending on how it is handled and expressed.  

Researcher and clinician John Gottman famously predicted in his studies which couples would stay together and which ones would later divorce with a 94% accuracy rate. The key traits he went onto coin as the Four Horsemen are; 

  • Criticism 
  • Contempt
  • Defensiveness 
  • Stonewalling 

When these traits are present during conflict, it creates a closed system with “sides” and lacks an openness to understand and have regard for the difference even if you might not agree. Of all the traits, contempt was found to be the most harmful and destructive in relationships. 

Questions to ask yourself

  • What is my conflict style? 
  • How did my family handle conflict while I was growing up? 
  • How was repair handled (if at all)? 
  • Were there some family members who were allowed to get angry and not for others? 
  • How would I like to handle myself during conflict? 

How can we manage conflict well in our relationships?

Managing conflict well involves understanding your own personal style of handling conflict as well as understanding the dynamic that is occurring with the other party. Awareness and understanding are the first step for change to be possible. Being able to identify reoccurring themes in your conflicts is also important. How much is it about power and control, the need for closeness/distance or respect and recognition. 

Once you have increased awareness of what you do and the patterns that tend to emerge with the other person you can begin to experiment with ways to de-escalate, slow down, regulate your nervous system and introduce gentle bids for intimacy such as incorporating the use of humour, etc.

What if we cannot resolve/agree/compromise?

Sometimes it is difficult to see how longstanding problems and entrenched patterns of behaviour can be altered and it is at these times the support of an impartial, non-judgemental counsellor can be helpful.

Relationship or couples counselling can assist you to gain insight into your present difficulties and ways of managing conflict. It can provide you with the tools to handle conflict healthily and to regain and maintain a positive, healthy and fulfilling relationship.

Individual relationship counselling can be of benefit if you wish to privately discuss issues that are affecting your relationship. Couples counselling enables both partners to understand why and how difficulties are arising and to develop skills that will assist them to foster a healthy and satisfying relationship.

About our Centre

Hobart Counselling Centre’s Relationship & Couples Counselling Clinic provides comprehensive counselling and support services to individuals, couples and families.

Our Counselling Team can assist with a range of issues that may be impacting your relationship:

Relationship Issues:

Communication difficulties
Sexual Intimacy
Trust issues
Career changes
Infidelity/Commitment issues
Same Sex Couples Counselling
Financial pressures
Parenting Challenges
Work/Life Balance
Pornography Addiction
The Fly-in Fly-out Lifestyle
Substance Misuse/Addiction
Anger Management
Transgender/Gender Diversity

Contacting Our Centre

If you are concerned about your relationship and would like further information about our services or wish to make an appointment with a Psychologist or Counsellor please email, complete the contact form, or telephone (03) 6285 8592.

Due to the high volume of enquiries to the Centre, an email or contact form enquiry will ensure you receive the timeliest response.