Conflict Resolution Strategies during COVID-19

This message to all faculty and staff has been approved by Renisha Gibbs, Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Finance & Administration Chief of Staff.

EAP logoThis unprecedented period of social distancing and stay-at-home orders gives couples and families wonderful opportunities to reconnect. While time together is a gift, it can also be a catalyst for disharmony and conflict – especially with the underlying triggers of homeschooling, work-from-home directives, and disrupted routines. During COVID-19, we are obligated to stay in our homes. With no escape and nerves on edge, a negative comment can quickly escalate into a full-blown argument or worse. What can you do to prevent escalation? Consider the following tips:

Create a Personal Safe Space

When emotions are running high, it’s okay to take a break from each other. Each family member should have a designated area that is theirs to go to for alone time – a “do not disturb” area. When conflicts are escalating, let your partner know that you need to retreat to your safe space instead of simply walking away. Assure your partner that the issue will be discussed rationally at a later time.

Think Before You Speak

We all say things we regret at one time or another. Nothing seems to come out right when we are emotionally reactive. In fact, when we are emotionally reactive, we are more inclined to say something we don’t mean – and in an inflammatory tone. Slow down, silently count to ten if necessary, and gather your thoughts before you speak. Also allow your partner time to slow down and de-escalate.

Discuss Your Concerns Once Everyone is Calm

After you have had time to cool down and both parties agree that its time, express your concerns clearly. Be direct, respectful, and non-confrontational. Avoid pointing a finger and placing blame by using “I” statements instead of “you” statements. Words such as “always” and “never” cause a defensive reaction and should be avoided.

Be Strategic

When you and your partner are in harmony, strategically plan ahead for times of conflict. Consider possible scenarios or triggers that are likely to cause conflict and formulate a plan for how to handle them when they come your way. Prioritize your stressors and decide how to address them together. Set a time to follow up after the initial discussion to ensure that you’re both “on the same page”.

Remember the Qualities that Made You Fall in Love with Your Partner

Focus on what attracted you to your partner initially. Most people appreciate words of affirmation – reflect on one another’s strengths and what you admire about them. Vocalizing your appreciation can help build a connection. With your partner, recount your fond memories of when you first met, your first date, your wedding day, etc. Remembering the good times will help you through the bad times.

Forgive Your Partner

Holding on to negative feelings can lead to resentment and can be detrimental to your mental health. Resentment can certainly undermine a relationship. Letting go of perceived injustices paves the way for strengthening a bond. Remember, forgiveness isn’t just a gift to your partner, it also frees you from ongoing bitterness and anger. Forgiveness is good for your soul – and for your relationship.

Maintain Family Routines

This is important to prevent your household from being chaotic. Recognize that children, like adults, are also impacted by social distancing and school closures. Children need structure to feel a sense of security that routines provide. Find ways to connect with each other – play a game, take a walk, have a nightly check-in after dinner to share your “highs” and “lows” of the day.

Take Care of You

Physical activity releases endorphins that reduce stress and alleviate anger. When tempers flare, get up and get moving. Many gyms are offering free online workouts and yoga classes at this time. Exercise can help clear your head and reset your mood. Taking care of your emotional self is as important as your physical self. Consider practicing mindfulness, gratitude, journaling, or engaging in a favorite hobby that may be helpful for your well-being in this stressful time.

Unfortunately, some unresolved conflicts lead to domestic violence or other abuse.  The following resources are available to assist in these circumstances:

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Refuge House
(850) 681-2111

Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741

For questions, contact the Employee Assistance Program,