Conflict Resolution: The Skill You’ll (Unfortunately) Need to Improve

There are certain things that come with adulthood that you know about, but remain mysterious in youth: taxes, mortgages, cooking real meals, figuring out how to make friends outside of classrooms or clubs, and most importantly, the drama that continues to permeate life.

There’s no magical switch that flips when you become an adult, who lives in the professional and serious world, to eliminate drama between people. There’s always someone, whether it be a coworker or a neighbor, that has free time to stir the pot. If you’re not the stirrer, you’re getting punched in the face with the childhood and high school drama amplified into a world without mediators.

People can be insane, truly psychotic, and incredibly bored. A lot of the drama that you’ll encounter, especially moving into new apartments and finding new jobs, is petty. Petty drama, however, can be more stress-inducing than we realize.

Having a neighbor who is up all night with loud music or barking dogs can make it hard to sleep, hard to function, and hard to imagine pleasant scenarios in which said neighbor is involved. Having a coworker who undermines your work or who tries to (god forbid) engage in gossip is distracting to your professional goals, erosive to your morale, and above all, damaging to your performance.

The question, then, becomes “What do I do about it?”

The answer is simple: you speak up! More often than not, all you need to do to fix a situation is have a dialogue about it. Now, granted, sometimes there are folks who truly want a duel (and I do not know how to handle that due to my lack of experience), but most people are acting in ignorance; they do not know the consequences of their actions on those around them.

For the sake of facilitation to action, here are 5 steps you can take to get closer to resolving any conflict you come into contact with.

1. Get their number before anything happens

It would be such a shame if a simple text could end a problem and it instead blows up into a catastrophe. Make sure when moving in somewhere new that you’re introducing yourself to new neighbors. Not only is this a smart way to connect with some people close by, but it might also save you in a tricky situation. In my experience, a quick text that asks for a dial down to the volume usually results in a “sorry, you got it!” and the problem is solved.

2. Keep it direct and polite, not nice

Being nice is awesome, but it can also be misleading. If you’re not getting to the point, don’t waste your breath or your energy. People understand direct communication, but passive aggressive communication will only lead you to become angrier when it was not understood by the other party. There’s no need to be rude, but as polite and to-the-point as you can get is the best route possible that leaves no wiggle room for misinterpretation.

3. Don’t try to “get even”

The worst thing you can do is engage crazy with more crazy. You shouldn’t ever one-up a neighbor’s loud speakers with your even-louder speakers because eventually, you’ll end up pissing off the wrong person and it’s going to escalate to a point of no return.

4. Stop putting it off

Life happens and we get busy; petty drama isn’t always on the top of a priority list. If you continue to put it off, however, your boundaries become drawn for you by the person who is pushing them. The quicker you can take initiative, the faster the problem will be resolved.

5. When it reaches a point, find a source of help

If, for some reason, all of these tips only lead to a giant feud (which they won’t) that’s spiraling out of control, get help. Police and RAs respond to noise complaints, bosses and managers don’t respect an employee who destroys another to uplift him or herself, and people, on occasion, only listen to authority that demands to be heard. If the situation is out of control and your daily life is being impacted negatively because of it, seek help.

Adulthood is great, no doubt, but part of it is navigating those around us. With some mature and practiced skills, it gets easier to resolve your conflicts and different methods work for different people. All I can ask is that you please, please don’t become the passive aggressive type; those people will destroy the world.