Reach Healthy Compromise Through Conflict Resolution

We all experience conflict with others.  The way we choose to resolve disagreements with others, however, strongly affects how close and meaningful our relationships tend to be.  There are three primary conflict communication styles: passive, assertive, and aggressive.  In this post you will learn why assertive communication is typically the most helpful way to resolve conflicts and how to use this communication style.

Those who seek to assertively resolve disagreements do not approach the conflict with the goal of seeking to win an argument or prove their point.  Instead, they approach the conflict with the goal of developing a compromise that works for everyone.  In solving disagreements assertively one clearly and confidently communicates their own perspectives and needs.  At the same time, they work to clearly understand the perspective and needs of those they disagree with and honor those perspectives and needs as equal to their own.  The ultimate goal of this method is to arrive at a compromise through which everyone feels heard and respected.  While people often fear disagreements may hurt a relationship, the care shown through assertive conflict resolution often helps people feel closer to one another.

The passive and aggressive styles of conflict resolution differ from assertive communication in that they do not take everyone’s needs into account.  The passive and aggressive styles don’t tend to result in healthy compromise but in someone getting their way at another’s expense.

In passive communication one disregards their own needs and gives into the needs of others.  This perspective can be helpful when it isn’t helpful or safe to stand up for yourself.  If taken too often this perspective tends to make people feel bitter towards those they’ve given into, creating a sense of distance in their relationships.   

In aggressive communication one disregards the needs of others and seeks to achieve their own ends no matter the costs.  This method of conflict resolution can be helpful when others are posing serious risk to one’s emotional or physical well-being and are continuing to do so despite being told to stop.  If the aggressive communication style is used when unnecessary it can cause disagreements to turn into arguments and damage relationships.

So now that we know why assertive communication tends to be most helpful, how do we practice it? The most important thing to do is to equally stand up for your own needs and the needs of the person you disagree with.  Let that guide you to a compromise and you should be golden.  The steps below can guide you to that compromise.

  1. Find out the perspectives and needs of the other person.  Really listen deeply.  Ask questions to clarify and facilitate your deep understanding. 

  2. Communicate to the other person your understanding of their perspectives and needs.  If there are parts of their perspective you agree with make sure to tell them so!

  3. Respectfully communicate your own perspective and needs.  Why do you feel that way?  What will help you feel better?  If helpful acknowledge the fact that just because your perspective is different doesn’t mean you see theirs as invalid.

  4. Work together to come to a compromise that works for both of you.


Voila!  Disagreement fixed.  Easy right?  Well sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.  The above is a simplified guide and you may very well jump around the various steps a few times before you arrive at a healthy compromise.  The effort of assertive communication is worth it though.  You will likely find more peaceful, close relationships the more you use it.    


Written By: Bill McCadden, MSW, LCSW










Bill McCadden