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Dealing with conflict and relationships on the farm

Seven strategies to address conflict

From infancy to old age, we form relationships. As we grow older and evolve from one relationship to another our values, beliefs, perceptions, goals, and ideas may evolve and change as well. As these changes occur, interpersonal conflict will happen.

Conflict is part of life. In all relationships, we experience conflict. Conflict is not always a bad thing. A definition of conflict is “a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles, or people.” With constructive or positive conflict, ideas, principles and people can become better. Conflict has the ability to enhance relationships, improve ideas make people better. It is when conflict is ignored, or avoided that bigger and more serious issues can and will develop.

Dealing with constant tension or unresolved conflict can be debilitating and cause mental and physical health issues. Constant tension and conflict are a distraction and as we go about our daily routines and at work, this distraction can become a safety issue.

Adjusting how we view conflict can be helpful in managing the issues. Conflict can not only be managed, but accepted as a part of life. Looking for meaningful ways to manage conflict can help us grow and strengthen relationships.

To gain perspective on how you manage or resolve conflict, it is important to do a self-assessment. Often internal and external factors are influencing our thoughts and our reactions to issues. Differing personalities, listening skills, communication styles and how we react will influence how we respond to and manage conflict.

Seven strategies to address conflict

1. If you find yourself feeling angry, separate yourself from the situation. Take the time to cool off and decompress and then deal with the problem efficiently and effectively. Things are done and said in anger that are later regretted.

2. Turn judgment to curiosity. Often when we are in a conflict it is too easy to pass judgment rather than to find out and understand the other’s position and perspective. Become curious and explore what the other’s position is so as not to assume but rather seek understanding.
3. Communicate your feelings assertively, not aggressively. Angry words will only make the situation worse whereas clear and concise words will build understanding from others.
4. Listen as you would like to be listened to, without interrupting. Far too often we listen to reply rather than to understand. Accept and respect the other’s opinion and that they may differ from yours.
5. Focus on areas of common interest to provide the option for a win/win rather than win/lose outcome. When only one person’s needs are met in a conflict, the situation is not resolved and will continue. Having the needs of both parties met leads to harmonious solutions.
6. As much as possible focus on the present and not the past. Don’t let the past define your future. Instead, learn from experiences and let the relationship grow and flourish in the future.
7. Be prepared to apologize. Sometimes peace is better than being right.

Using these strategies is essential in keeping conflicts from spiralling out of control. Managing conflict is essential in preserving and building relationships and maintaining our physical and mental health. Managing conflict keeps you and your family safe as you take care of the business at hand.

Always remember: You’re worth it. Your family, friends, and community will benefit. Your farm will benefit. Your life will benefit.

Gerry Friesen from Signature Mediation for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.

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