How to Manage Conflict at University

Your university career is one of the most exciting and unforgettable times of your life! However, as with any new chapter in your life, it doesn’t come without its challenges. When you move to a brand-new environment, meet new people, and begin to form new relationships, you will undoubtedly face some uncertainty and possibly even conflict.

While conflict can seem like an uncomfortable topic, it is a very normal part of life. In fact, if faced in the proper manner, conflict can even be healthy for us to face from time to time.

Once again, we have teamed up with our friends at Student Minds to provide you with some great coping mechanisms on managing conflict. Read on below for our five best steps to take when you are faced with conflict throughout your time at university.

  1. Don’t avoid the situation. When faced with conflict, our “fight or flight” responses often kick in. It can oftentimes be much easier to avoid a situation altogether when it comes to conflict, rather than facing it head on. However, when you avoid conflict, it can sometimes result in avoiding the individual involved in the situation. Unfortunately, this isn’t a practical solution, especially if the person involved is a flat mate, professor, or peer. The best and first step to take when faced with conflict is to not shy away from the situation, but rather to approach it head on. Avoiding conflict will only cause tensions to rise, create a wider gap between yourself and the other party involved, and take a toll on your mental health.
  2. Request a meeting in a neutral setting. While you should approach a situation of conflict head on, that doesn’t mean you should approach the situation too eagerly or based on your emotions. The best step to take is to request a meeting with the other party in a neutral setting. Planning a meeting gives you both a chance to gather your thoughts, and meeting in a neutral setting will reduce the risk of either of you feeling uncomfortable or out of place. If you are not sure on a neutral meeting space, a coffee shop or a meeting room are both great options.
  3. Identify the source of conflict. When faced with conflict, as mentioned above, sometimes our emotions can become overwhelming and it is possible to lose sight of how we found ourselves in the situation in the first place. When this happens, it can be easy to attack the person instead of the problem at hand. To work through the conflict, it is vital to get to the root cause of the situation by putting your emotions to one side. For more information on how to identify conflict, this article from Balancing Change Mindfully has some great tips.
  4. Talk it out. Once you have identified the root cause of why you are in a situation of conflict, you can then work your way through to finding a solution. This is where patience and communication are key, as a lot of talking will need to take place, likely over an extended period. Talking through the conflict does not have to happen in one day. In fact, this conversation will likely need to be ongoing, and it is possible that you might need to take several breaks from it over time. Taking time and care to talk through conflict will ensure that you come to a full resolution without any further conflictions.
  5. Follow up. Although you have now worked through the conflict and both parties have reached a resolution, this does not mean that all communication should stop here. Shortly following your resolution, it is a good idea to follow up and come up with a plan of action so that you can avoid this specific topic of conflict in the future. This plan could involve regular check-ins between each party, or even double-checking that you are both in agreement on the topic at hand. For more ideas on how to keep the lines of communication open, and to communicate effectively with your peers, check out this article from LiveAbout.com.

There is no guarantee that you will not be faced with conflict several more times throughout your university career, but so long as you approach it head on and work to manage it in a healthy way, you will find that these situations are no more uncomfortable than the stress that comes with studying for an exam, giving a presentation, or starting a new job.

For more resources and information on managing conflict, or looking after your mental health in general, you can visit the Student Minds website or their newly launched platform, Student Space. If you need immediate support, please text STUDENT to 85258.