Conflict Ground Rules

In all long term relationships differences arise sometimes, a few may be serious or too serious. Differences can arise whenever people – whether close friends, family members, co-workers, or spouses – disagree about their perceptions, desires, ideas, or values. Having a difference of opinion should not be an issue, actually it should be healthy for relationships as it enriches us and forces us to look at a point of view that is different and may be better than our own.

These differences can range from trivial to more significant disagreements, but regardless of the content of disagreement, difference sometimes lead to conflict and stirs up strong feelings when not handled in a mature and improper manner. This often lead to discomfort and anger.

Anger is a normal human emotion, however sometimes Satan (Shaitan) leads us into uncontrolled and irrational behavior Quran talks about this and give answers how we should handle ourselves when angry. Rasool Allah (PBUH) gave practical advice how Muslims should control our negative emotions especially anger

Before we look at what the Quran says, let us first determine where we stand. Please check if you sometimes do any or some of the following:

[  ]        Avoid conflict at all cost

[  ]        Withdraw and become silent when angry

[  ]        Feel that any criticism or disagreement is a personal attack

[  ]        Say or do bad things that we regret later

[  ]        Become really angry

[  ]        Feel out of control in conflict situation

[  ]        Accumulate resentment  from the past and throw the kitchen sink at other party

[   ]       Press buttons to agitate partner and escalate conflict


If your answer to some of these are yes, you will need to review your approach to managing disagreement.

Allah says in the Quran in Surah Ashura 42:37 – 41

وَالَّذِينَ يَجْتَنِبُونَ كَبَائِرَ الْإِثْمِ وَالْفَوَاحِشَ وَإِذَا مَا غَضِبُوا هُمْ يَغْفِرُونَ

Those who avoid the greater crimes and shameful deeds, and, when they are angry even then forgive;
وَالَّذِينَ اسْتَجَابُوا لِرَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنْفِقُونَ

Those who harken to their Lord, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance;
وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَهُمُ الْبَغْيُ هُمْ يَنْتَصِرُونَ

And those who, when an oppressive wrong is inflicted on them, (are not cowed but) help and defend themselves.
وَجَزَاءُ سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِثْلُهَا ۖ فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمِينَ

The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for (Allah) loveth not those who do wrong.
وَلَمَنِ انْتَصَرَ بَعْدَ ظُلْمِهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ مَا عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ سَبِيلٍ

But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong (done) to them, against such there is no cause of blame.


Again Allah says in Surah Ale-Imran  3:134

الَّذِينَ يُنْفِقُونَ فِي السَّرَّاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon (all) men;- for Allah loves those who do good;-


Below are some of the ground rules that will help keep your disagreements from becoming entrenched or destructive. This may be difficult when you think other’s point of view is irrational or just plain unfair. But remember, he or she may think the same thing about you and your ideas. This will only work if you are willing to give each other a chance to participate and express their point of view openly and equally with your willingness to listen attentively.

Remain calm. Try not to overreact and show anger in difficult situations. By remaining calm you will gain respect and it is more likely that others will consider your viewpoint.

Be specific about what is bothering you. Vague complaints are hard to work with. Inaccurate and vague statements may also heighten tensions.

Deal with only one issue at a time. Don’t introduce other topics until each is fully discussed. This avoids the “kitchen sink” effect where people throw in all their complaints while not allowing anything to be resolved.

Express feelings in words, not actions. If you start to feel so angry or upset that you feel you may lose control, take a “time out” and do something to help yourself feel calm: take a walk, do some deep breathing, play with your pet, write in your journal, surf the net- whatever works for you.

Shouting and yelling does not help: Be calm and effective in communicating your message. Yelling is perceived as looking down at others and show arrogance that Allah does not like. It may either shut the other person or may escalate the problem more. Allah says in Sura Luqman 31:18 – 19

وَلَا تُصَعِّرْ خَدَّكَ لِلنَّاسِ وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ

 “And swell not thy cheek (for pride) at men, nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah love not any arrogant boaster.
وَاقْصِدْ فِي مَشْيِكَ وَاغْضُضْ مِنْ صَوْتِكَ ۚ إِنَّ أَنْكَرَ الْأَصْوَاتِ لَصَوْتُ الْحَمِيرِ

“And be moderate in your pace, and lower your voice; for the harshest of sounds without doubt is the braying of the donkey.”

Listen attentively: Stop from formulating how you will respond even before the other side has finished their statement.

Stop pressing wrong buttons: That would trigger negative emotions in the other person. Attacking areas of personal sensitivity creates an atmosphere of distrust, anger, and vulnerability.

Be careful who you are listening to: Many “friends and relatives” love to gossip and highlight issues that are blown out of proportion or just inaccurate. Be aware of who your friends are.

Investigate before you accuse: Allah says in Sura Al-Hujrat 49 : Verse 6

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنْ جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَنْ تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ

O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest you harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what you have done.

Avoid undue suspicion: Allah (SWT) says in surah Al-Hujrat 49 Verse 12

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَبْ بَعْضُكُمْ بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَنْ يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَحِيمٌ

O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it…But fear Allah: For Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.


Avoid accusations. Accusations will lead others to focus on defending themselves rather than on understanding you. Instead, talk about how someone’s actions made you feel.

Use “I” statements instead of “you” statement: Express your own feeling on what is happening instead of using blaming statement. “I feel hurt when ….” or “I feel sad when ….”

Try not to generalize. Avoid words like “never” or “always.” Such generalizations are usually misunderstood.

Avoid make believe. Exaggerating or inventing a complaint – or your feelings about it – will prevent the real issues from surfacing. Stick with the facts and your honest feelings.

Don’t stockpile. Storing up lots of grievances and hurt feelings over time is counterproductive. It’s almost impossible to deal with numerous old problems for which recollections may differ. Try to deal with problems as they arise.

Avoid clamming up. Positive results can only be attained with two-way communication. When one person becomes silent and stops responding to the other, frustration and anger can result. However, if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed or shutting down, you may need to take a break from the discussion. Just let your partner know you will return to the conversation as soon as you are able and then don’t forget to follow-up. (it is best to preset a time for return to the table)

Don’t walk out on the other party: Ask for time out if you need to cool down or re-think; leave with a commitment to come back at a specific time.

Never raise the issue in Public or in front of others: Remember it is the two of you who have the magic key (solution to the problem).

Look for out of the box solution: Every issue has more than just the traditional solution – look for alternate solution. Think out of the box.

Think Win/Win – NOT Win / Loose. You may win a battle but lose the war especially for the Akhira. Think of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than dwelling on negativity. Allah says in Sura Al-Hujrat 49:10

إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

The Believers are but a single Brotherhood: So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers (parties); and fear Allah, that ye may receive Mercy.

Praise the other side where praise is due:  Genuine praise from the heart brings good feelings even when discussing hot issues. After all they are our own and we love them.

Fight with love and mercy in your heart: Your goal should be to resolve the issue and not hurt the feelings.

Don’t make Shaitan happy: When husband and wife fight the only one that is happy is shaitan.

Establish common ground rules. You may want to ask your partner-in-conflict to read and discuss this information with you. When both people accept positive common ground rules for managing a conflict, resolution becomes much more likely.

Agree to disagree: You may not be able to reach a consensus and resolution on all issues. Some issues you may have to table and move on to others only to come back sometimes later. Agree to disagree and move.


These ground rules should be discussed together and although not easy but should be agreed upon before discussing major marital or family issues of conflict. It  insha Allah will produce positive results even if only a few of the rules are followed. They are hard to follow but they work. Good luck.

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