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Quarreling in Quarantine

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Conflict Resolution Institute

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By Olivia Dudley, CRI Staff, MA '21.

couple arguing

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a heightened sense of anxiety and uncertainty that many of us have not experienced in our lifetimes. The pandemic also brings with it many challenges, compelling us to think differently about how we work, go to school, relax during our free time and connect with friends and family while respecting social distancing measures. We may now be forced to spend near constant time with those that we live with and, in most cases, care about, whether it be friends, partners, family, or roommates. Quarantine has upended almost all of our previous routines, and the extra time together can create conflicts in relationships previously and seemingly impervious to them before COVID-19.

In KGNU's timely release as the pandemic unfolded, the March 18, 2020 edition of their conflict resolution series spoke to listeners about conflict in the face of our newly enacted quarantine measures, called "Preventing Conflict in Close Quarters." In this radio discussion with KGNU, Former Colorado State Senator Linda Newell and Reverend Vickie Samland, a conflict and anger management specialist who taught at The Conflict Center in Denver for 22 years, discussed how to prevent conflict in families and relationships while we are living in close quarters under quarantine. We have collected some of this useful and impactful advice from these conflict resolution experts in three stages: prevention, navigating conflict, and post-conflict restorative practices.


  • Be cognizant of the stress, anxiety, and fear that stem from the collective situation. Recognize that we all may not be acting as our best selves to prevent escalation of small conflicts. As Vickie said, "It is a lot harder to dig yourself out of a deep hole than it is to walk around it or skip over it."
  • Be a good model for those around you. Promote kindness. Be a listener first, before you speak. When you do speak, speak respectfully and use "I" statements, such as "I feel upset/hurt/frustrated when...".
  • Layout ground rules on how to deal with conflict before it happens. Determine what steps you will take to resolve conflict when it arises.

Navigating Conflict

  • When conflict arises, make sure you take time apart to calm down. Don't try to resolve conflict when you are angry. Notice when you are getting too emotional to deal with a problem with a level head.
  • Humor in many cases, but not all, can help resolve conflict. Learn to laugh at yourself, but not at the other person.
  • Again, use "I" statements to express how you feel and why. Speak without blame.
  • Take advantage of mediation services available to you!

Post-Conflict Restorative Practices

  • The words "I'm sorry" are really important. A sincere, humble apology without being defensive or sarcastic can take you far.
  • Even if they do not immediately accept your apology, it can lead to more discussion. Listen to each other and communicate your problems, feelings, and desires.
  • Collaborate to find out how to help each other through this difficult time and prevent future conflict.

Conflict during this tough time will be inevitable, but, like every new challenge surrounding this global crisis, we should see this interpersonal challenge as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, overcome conflict and strengthen our relationships.

To listen to the full discussion, visit KGNU's website: "Preventing Conflict in Close Quarters."