Conflict and Interpersonal Relationship Difficulties

Counselling in Perth

How can counselling help me with my interpersonal conflict?

When people talk about “interpersonal relationship difficulties” they are often referring to conflict with others.  Conflict that causes problems in the workplace, socially with your friends, or at home with family and loved ones.  Conflict can arise from misunderstandings, miscommunication, “black and white” thinking, being stubborn, righteousness.  Conflict is an inevitable part of being a human being because we are social and relational beings.  How each person deals with conflict is often a product of how they were taught to deal with emotions while growing up.

Clashing with another in a heated argument can leave you experiencing a number of different emotions – anger, sadness, guilt, frustration, confusion, resentment, shame, and even joy (if you’ve “won” the argument).  Continued conflict may result in others withdrawing from or avoiding you, leaving you feeling isolated and alone.

On the other hand, avoiding conflict completely can cause just as many difficulties in interpersonal relationships as engaging in conflict can. Maybe you have been called a “people-pleaser” ? because you will do anything to avoid conflict with others.  Neither behaviour helps people to connect and support healthy relationships with others. 


Tips for Addressing Conflict with Others

  1. Take the discussion to a quiet and private space if possible. This will lessen the possibility of one party needing to “save face”.
  2. Stay as calm as you can and try to take action before it escalates.
  3. Emotions are often a big part of conflict. Often conflict arises when emotion clashes with logic in an argument. Logic says “you’re not making sense” and then tries harder by using more logic, and emotion says “you don’t understand me” and emotions increase.
  4. Ask to take a time-out (to calm down and get some clarity of your own needs) on the understanding that you will return and discuss it further.
  5. Approach the discussion with an open-mind. Be prepared to listen, ask for further clarification, and compromise.
  6. Let go of any self-righteous annoyance.
  7. Let go of “right and wrong”…”black and white”…”should and shouldn’ts”. There is always more than one way to view a situation, and your “truth” belongs to you – your opinion, your view, your belief – just as the other has their own “truth”…opinion, view and belief.
  8. Be more flexible and open to accept difference between people. Everyone is unique and can bring something different to your own experience.
  9. Be prepared to examine what might be “missing” from your point of view.
  10. Avoid making assumptions and blaming.
  11. Validate the other persons opinion. You don’t need to agree with or approve of it. Remember that validation is non-judgemental.
  12. Use “I feel…” statements rather than “you are…”.
  13. Identify mistakes and own your part in it.
  14. Use assertive language rather than aggressive language.
  15. Verbal, physical or emotional abuse is NOT OK. Don’t do it, don’t accept it.
  16. At the end you may have to come to a compromise, or simply “agree to disagree”.


Counselling or mediation are both useful avenues to seek assistance.  Mediation uses a neutral person to intervene in the conflict so that an acceptable resolution can be reached by both parties. Mediation is often used for workplace conflict or family disputes.

Counselling that is non-judgmental and respectful can be very useful to attend as a couple or as an individual. I believe it is important to understand your own process of being with another – how you understand your own role to be in your relationship with others, as well as yourself.  Some people need to learn what their needs are, and to express themselves in a way that allows them to be met.  This could mean becoming more assertive, more open and accepting, or simply being able to take a different perspective when interacting with others.

If you are seeking the services of a psychologist or counsellor in Perth, please contact me on 0406 033 644 or

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