Lost in Translation: Different styles of dealing with conflict.

August 15, 2022

Illustration of people and speech bubbles talking to each other

Have you ever been speaking to someone about something that’s important to you, yet they don’t seem to be hearing the heart of what you are saying?

It’s not that the words rolling off your tongue are from an unfamiliar dictionary; it just seems that your words don’t land. Something is lost in translation.

Take for example the situation of a noisy neighbour. It’s getting late – the clock just ticked past eleven and you have to be up early in the morning. You’re already in your pyjamas, but your plan for a restful night has been interrupted by music and off-key singalongs that have only increased in volume over the past hour.

As you toss and turn in bed, you think to yourself, This is not cool. And so you’re forced into a situation with a few different options:

  1. Sigh and shrug it off – put in some earplugs, roll over, catch whatever sleep that you can and do your best to forget about it the next day.
  2. Push through the night – but politely bring it up the next time you and your neighbour are talking over the fence.
  3. Deal with it directly – put on your housecoat, step out into the party zone, and have a forthright conversation about it.

Obviously, there are other variables that might influence what you choose to do. Is this a frequent issue? What is your relationship like with your neighbour? Are you a light sleeper? Is it a jaunt across a snow-covered lawn at -30 degrees Celsius, or a shuffle down the apartment hall?

But beyond these circumstantial details, is you. Are you initially drawn to response number 1, 2, or 3? Each of us has a natural tendency to deal with conflict in a certain way. Which is yours?

Image of three doors - numbered for different adventures

There is an impact behind our words that goes beyond vocabulary. What we say is informed by how we say it. And just like we learn how to walk by mimicking the gait of adults around us, we develop a personal way of dealing with conflict through a mysterious blend of nature and nurture; an individualized bit of character that influences how we interact with others.

Your neighbour is the same: they too have their own preferred way of communicating. The tricky thing is, it might be different than yours and that’s worth considering in the heat of things.

Research in conflict resolution shows that we tend to like being approached in a way that reflects how we would approach others. In order for our words to be received well enough at midnight (that’s right – another wide-eyed hour has already gone by as we’ve been contemplating this), we need to consider: what is the most effective way you can communicate your perspective and needs?

For instance: if your neighbour is typically direct, a casual mention of the noise last night might not communicate just how much it really bothered you. Or if your neighbour tends to be on the quieter side, blunt confrontation may be received as aggressive on your part.

If it really is resolution we’re after, it’s important to try to speak in a way that you are heard.


It takes a bit of work to get along with our neighbours – the same goes for family, colleagues, and…well, everyone. All we can control are our own actions, though even then it can be challenging because our initial reactions are often unconscious.

If we want to stay neighbourly, we need to gain a better grasp on understanding how we come across. Do our actions impact others? Absolutely. Can we learn to play our role in tricky situations better? Always. Will we make mistakes along the way? Almost certainly – but that’s okay too. The important thing is to take responsibility and try again. The goal isn’t perfection, but rather improvement.

The first step is to bring a bit more consciousness into our response to conflict, and in that space try to choose words and actions that won’t unnecessarily add fuel to the fire.

Next is to diffuse the tensions so that a conversation can actually happen, where both parties have an opportunity to speak and be heard.


In many of the conflicts that naturally arise in life you can find resolution on your own, but sometimes you get stuck at an impasse. It takes two to have a conversation, and there’s only so much you can do by yourself. In tricky situations, a third-party mediator can be especially helpful in creating a safe space for everyone involved.

Is this where you are at right now? If so, our qualified team is here as a resource. Head over to our mediation self referral page and fill out an intake form for neighbourhood/community conflict, family conflict, or workplace conflict. We can then facilitate a mediation session to help generate an understanding of everyone’s issues and concerns – and, importantly, to work towards an agreement.

There can be resolution on the far side of conflict, and we’re here to help you find it.

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