The Top 5 Blocks to Connection with Others in Conflict Situations | By Julia Menard

Couple arguing on sofa feeling disconnected

In my work as a mediator and conflict coach, what touches my heart the most is the way so many of us want a deeper connection with others, but can't seem to find it.

Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse in Australia, wrote a book entitled, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying based on her experiences listening to people in their last stages of life. One key theme that repeatedly showed up was the importance of connection with others - our relationships. Dr. Kelli Stajduhar, an end-of-life specialist and researcher, found that a key regret was letting anger get in the way of maintaining quality family relationships.

But what else gets in the way of keeping relationships intimate, vibrant, and connected in a conflict situation?

Here are my Top 5 Blocks to Connection with Others

1) Blaming the other person for our feelings.

All too often, instead of naming our feelings and expressing our deepest needs stimulating that feeling, we blame the other person for how we feel.

Try sharing who you are and what you feel instead of blaming others—and invite true connection.

2) Not listening to the other person with an open mind.

What gets in the way of connection is thinking we already know the answer. Our heart and mind is closed.

When we choose NOT to blame, and instead listen with an open heart we hear the feelings and the tender needs underneath what someone is saying. Now we can re-establish connection with others.

3) Confusing a solution with a need.

It's helpful to separate our needs from the WAY we get those needs met.

We all have "universal needs" like belonging, love, connection and these are NON-negotiable. But how we get those needs met IS negotiable.

For example, if I want to go to see the game and you don't—it could lead to conflict. Instead when I realise my need is for fun and to share that fun with you, you might then realise that your need is for a night in. Now we have truly connected, and we can find solutions that meet BOTH our needs.

4) Digging in our heels and seeing our own solution as the only solution.

I saw this happen recently. Instead of two individuals sitting down and discussing their feelings and deeper needs, each person showed up with a solution in mind. They each tried to impose their solution to "solve the problem" onto the other person. Both people were closed and caught up in a power struggle, disconnected from each other—and stuck!

Remember there are always other solutions.

5) Shutting down our heart towards the other.

This involves that eternally mysterious place—our heart. And one thing I've noticed is that people who have conflict between them become numb to each other.

The caring doesn't just disappear, though it might seem so to the conscious mind. It's like a type of ice, and as that ice thaws the connection is re-established. But when we are IN the ice age it's easy to forget that we care for the other person deeply.

This brings us full circle back to the regrets of the dying. When we are dying we're at our most vulnerable. Our layers of toughness and ice can melt away. And we have the opportunity to see the most clearly and most directly from our hearts. It's then we remember what's most important: our friends, our family, those in our lives who have touched us and who we have touched: our connections with others.


I'll leave you with a coaching question: Who do you want to reconnect with—and remember that you love today?

Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others. Harriet Lerner

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This article was written by Julia Menard, PCC, M.Ed. and Professional Certified Coach. Julia has a Masters in Educational Psychology specializing in Leadership. She helps Leaders Transform Workplace Conflict through Coaching, Mediation and Training. To learn more about Julia and her work, please check out her website And if you're interested in communicating better and staying calm during conflicts be sure to check out Julia's great ecourses on how to have tough conversations and how to stay cool during conflict. Lastly, join other collaborative leaders receiving regular conflict guidance by signing-up for my newsletter here.

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