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Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Is avoiding conflict at all cost the correct thing to do?

Nashville, Ark. – Live with a person and eventually you will have conflict. It just happens. Everyone experiences conflict in their personal relationships and daily lives from time to time. It is a normal part of human interaction. The way you handle conflict is the challenge. Solving conflict without hurting the other person’s feelings is not easy to do.

            Conflict happens when something happens that is different from what we expected or hoped for. Often, we interpret the difference as unfair. Or when someone blames or accuses us, we react, often negatively.

In families, the reaction may be to initiate the “silent” treatment or fight back. If we choose the silent treatment, a cold war could erupt. If we choose to fight back, there may be an explosive situation. Whether we pout or fight back, a lot of time and energy can be wasted, and irreparable damage may occur.

So, avoiding conflict at all costs is the correct thing to do, right? Not necessarily. Sometimes, conflict can have positive benefits. Here are some ways:

  • Confrontation in a conflict can lead to change;
  • Being aware of conflicts can increase your motivation to do well;
  • Conflicts increase awareness of problems that need to be solved;
  • Disagreement often causes a decision to be thought through more carefully;
  • Minor conflicts can defuse potentially large ones.

      While it is not suggested to go out and look for conflicts, it is important to note that conflict can provide you with some new directions and opportunities. It may help solve a problem in a positive way. For example, a couple may have a disagreement (conflict) about how family finances are handled. There never seems to be enough money. This conflict may cause the family to develop and stay within a budget, which is a positive outcome. Here are some steps to handling disagreements in a positive way:

  1. State the problem. Ask yourself, “What exactly is the problem?” Be as specific as possible. It may help you separate your feelings from the problem. The problem may be the feelings associated with a particular issue, rather than the issue itself. At this point, avoid offering solutions. This step comes later.
  2. Who is involved? Who is part of the problem? Who is affected by the problem? List everyone involved and then identify the main characters.
  3. Examine your values related to the problem. Think about your needs and concerns related to the issue. Why are they important to you? Which ones are most important? This will help clarify the problem. It also makes you aware that everyone has differences and similarities. Keep in mind the saying, “Every story has two sides.”
  4. Brainstorm solutions. Gather as many solutions as you can. List them on paper. If the disagreement is between family members, call a family meeting. Try not to judge anyone’s suggestions. At this stage all ideas are relevant.
  5. Rank the solutions. Again, if the family is involved, have every member rank the various solutions. It will make it easier to find a solution that would be acceptable to all persons involved. 
  6. Identify a solution. Hopefully, everyone can agree on the potential solution. Avoid voting because this presents a win or lose situation. If feelings are too high, let everyone settle down before proceeding.
  7. Troubleshoot the decision. Ask questions about whether this solution will work or not. Identify areas it could not work. What are the obstacles? You may decide to regroup and start over at step 4.

Once a solution is decided upon that everyone is willing to try, put the process into action. If, after a while, the solution is not working, you may need to back up and come up with other ideas.

Remember, people (especially families and couples) can’t avoid all conflict and that’s okay. In fact, conflict is a normal part of a relationship. However, you can learn to follow positive ways in handling conflict, which in turn develops healthy relationships.

For more information on family issues, contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. You can also check out the website

Additional information for this article was adapted from National Resource Center for Healthy Marriage and Families and Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service.

Recipe of the Week

            It’s hot and humid outside. This recipe is perfect as a side dish to any meal and it doesn’t heat up the kitchen! For extra nutrient value try using whole wheat pasta.

Pasta Salad

2 cups cooked pasta (any shape)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1 cup diced cucumber

1 large tomato, seeds removed and chopped

½ green pepper, diced

1 small onion, minced

½ cup frozen peas, thawed

            Cook the pasta following package instructions, drain, and cool in the refrigerator. Collect, dice, and measure all ingredients.

            Whisk together oil, vinegar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper flakes (if using) in a large bowl. Add the pasta, cucumber, tomato, green pepper, onion, and peas. Mix all ingredients together until vegetables and pasta are evenly coated.

Cover and refrigerate for one hour. Stir before serving. Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 cup) – Calories 150, Fat 8g, Sodium 200mg, Carbohydrate 17g, Fiber 2g, Protein 4g

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

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