While it’s natural to want to avoid dealing with the problem, it can make it worse and will eventually need to be dealt with.

Problems often occur in our relationships with others, whether that’s friends, family, partners, co-workers or even strangers. You might also experience problems with money, housing or work.

It’s important to recognise that an individual with autism may find it harder to solve these problems, especially those based on social interactions. This can be partially because it is common for those with autism to struggle to create multiple solutions to the problem. They can also struggle to make decisions, especially at the speed that is often required for resolving social problems.

In some situations, the conflict between two people can’t be resolved, however before “unfriending” someone it’s worth attempting to come to a solution that works for everyone involved.

Often when there is a problem between people, there will be some form of conflict, and the ability to deal with conflict is an important skill for everyone to have.

There are 5 conflict resolution strategies (Thomas & Kilmann, 1974) that people can use:

  1. avoiding
  2. defeating
  3. compromising
  4. accommodating
  5. collaborating

An important part of conflict resolution is the ability for people to identify their more automatic response to conflict so they can then identify areas where they may be able to learn and improve. For example, someone with autism may find conflict overwhelming so will avoid speaking up in a situation. It’s important that individuals and their supports can help to identify this and assist in implementing strategies to make changes.

This might allow someone who avoids conflict to learn how to compromise with others. Similarly, someone who would normally compete to get their wants or needs met, might be able to learn how to accommodate others.

An important element of problem-solving in social situations is assertiveness. This is a social skill where an individual can stand up for their rights (or the rights of others) in a way that is calm and respectful.

Developing skills in assertiveness is something all individuals can benefit from and plays an important role in everyday interactions with others, as well as in situations where there is some form of problem to be solved with another person.

While trying to resolve a problem, you may feel uncomfortable in the moment, but you are more likely to experience positive feelings after coming to a solution with the other person. You might feel proud or happy that you still have your friend or happy that you were able to display empathy to the other person in arriving at your solution.

While it can feel easier in the moment to not resolve a problem and to just avoid it, you will most likely end up feeling sad, or lonely, or even disempowered for not asserting your own wants or needs.

Sometimes despite trying really hard, problems can’t always be solved, and while that can be hard, it’s important to that that it is okay.

If you choose to ignore a problem, you are moving away from the issue and this doesn’t allow for solutions to be made. Coming up with solutions is moving towards the problem and allows for learning and growth to occur. It also results in an outcome that builds reassurance that you can do it again.

Try to imagine how you might feel after facing a problem and creating a solution and how that might make the people around you feel. Hopefully, it makes you feel good and you feel like trying to work with others to solve problems.

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