How to Address Conflict: The 2 Ways to Resolve Disputes

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you uncomfortable with conflict? How should you address conflict?

Not many people enjoy getting into conflict, but unfortunately, you can’t always run away from it. Shonda Rhimes’s book Year of Yes gives techniques for addressing conflict so that you can assert your boundaries.

Continue reading to learn how to address conflict the right way.

Get Comfortable With Conflict

Before her transformative year, Rhimes would avoid conflict with others. During the year, she learned that conflict wouldn’t bring about the end of the world, that she could assert her boundaries by saying “no,” and that learning how to address conflict could bring her a measure of peace and confidence in herself. Ultimately, these realizations led to more honest and authentic relationships.

1. Assert Your Boundaries

Rhimes began to practice asserting her boundaries with people in her life. The more she practiced, the more comfortable she became with saying “no” when needed. She gained more trust in her instincts about what her boundaries were and when to assert them. Before she committed to boundary-setting, Rhimes had felt obligated to say “yes” to every favor asked of her, and the lack of boundaries ran her ragged and took a toll on her finances. But once she adopted the practice of saying “no,” she felt this sense of obligation lessen. 

(Shortform note: It is widely accepted among mental health professionals that personal and professional boundaries are beneficial for your mental health and enable you to have healthy relationships with others. Without them, you can lose track of your needs and preferences and, as a result, you may feel exhausted and resentful while attending to other people’s needs and preferences over your own. With boundaries, you allow the other person to know where your lines are. In doing so, you give them the choice to respect your boundaries or not, which can tell you a lot about them and the relationship you share.)

Key Takeaways

When you embrace everything that scares you, you don’t necessarily erase all your boundaries, but instead, you learn to listen to your inner voice and your intuition and say “no” when you need to. 

When you’re clear with your boundaries, you make it clear to others what they should expect, which allows everyone to proceed with confidence. There are many ways to assert your boundaries—Rhimes recommends saying things like, “I’m going to be unable to do that” or “that is not going to work for me.” 

(Shortform note: One of the early steps in establishing boundaries with others is to affirm for yourself that your needs and preferences are just as important as theirs. But first, you must get in touch with what your needs and preferences are by listening to your inner voice. In The Success Principles, Jack Canfield discusses three ways your inner voice speaks to you: through your emotions, your thoughts, and feelings in your body. To hear your inner voice more clearly, he recommends practicing meditation and also asking yourself questions as if you were speaking to another person.)

2. Embrace Difficult Conversations

In the process of getting more comfortable with saying “no,” Rhimes realized that she was capable of having difficult conversations of all sorts, like confronting people’s passive-aggressive behavior or confessing mistakes she had made. The more willing Rhimes was to have difficult discussions, the more she could see that having conflict with others in her life was ok and even fruitful. She started sticking up for herself more and not letting others treat her poorly. She grew more courageous about being honest with people and spoke her mind aloud more often. Difficult conversations became something to lean into rather than avoid because they often revealed a truth, which set her free.

Key Takeaways

Difficult conversations aren’t always going to end the way you hope they will, but it is worth the risk. When you start embracing conflict and difficult conversations, some people might turn away from you: those who cannot tolerate conflict, accept the truth, or respect your boundaries. Despite this potential loss, you stand to gain much more—genuine authenticity in your relationships and more confidence in your ability to stick up for yourself and tell the truth.

(Shortform note: As Rhimes describes, avoiding conflict is not a good strategy if you want healthy, authentic relationships. But what happens on the other side of the spectrum—when we continuously spark and perpetuate conflict with others? In The Anatomy of Peace, the Arbinger Institute explains that if conflict features heavily in your life, it’s important to acknowledge the role that you’re playing in its creation. If you desire more harmonious relationships, you may have to change your mindset and behavior to work with people rather than against them.)

How to Address Conflict: The 2 Ways to Resolve Disputes

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Shonda Rhimes's "Year of Yes" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Year of Yes summary:

  • The story of a woman who said "yes" to every opportunity for a year
  • How to go from surviving to full-hearted thriving
  • Why you shouldn't be uncomfortable with receiving praise

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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