Resolution Tips

Are you in the middle of a dispute? These tips might be helpful.

Conflict Resolution poster
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1. Step back and slow down

  • Most of us repeat unhelpful behaviors in conflicts because we are unaware of what we are doing
  • We can only change habits through awareness
  • Plan what you want to say to avoid saying something that will escalate a conflict

2. Be clear about your intentions and goals for the conversation

  • If your most important goal is to win, blame or change the other party, the conflict will probably escalate, no matter what skills you use
  • If your intention is to blame or change others, you don’t learn how to prevent the problem from repeating itself
  • Only begin a conversation about a conflict in order to learn something new, express your views and feelings, or to problem-solve.

3. Listen first to understand—ask questions to explore the other person’s story

  • If others feel listened to they are more likely to try to understand you
  • Leverage for change comes from understanding, not from convincing them you are right
  • It is rare for people to feel truly listened to and still experience the conflict as negative
  • Be aware of your internal barriers to really listening, such as thinking you are right and strong feelings about the subject matter

4. Express strong feelings without blame

  • Strong feelings make it impossible for us to really listen
  • Use “I-statements” to express what you’re feeling
  • Be sure to state a feeling (as opposed to a judging statement) after saying “I feel”
  • Be sure to carefully describe the other party’s behavior without adding evaluations to it
  • The key is to be completely honest without blaming the other

5. Be aware of how your own self image might make you more defensive

  • Avoid an all or nothing, black and white view of yourself—in this way you will become more open to feedback

6. Take responsibility for your assumptions

  • Be willing to let go of your interpretation—believing that our beliefs and conclusions about others are “the truth” creates a lot of conflict
  • Share with others what you see as the raw data and how you interpret it (your thought process)
  • When others speak about their conclusions, ask how they came to those conclusions

7. Find common ground

  • Be sure to note areas of agreement as well as areas of disagreement
  • Identifying areas of agreement reduces defensiveness

8. Explore what is most important the other person (by listening and asking questions out of curiosity)

  • People do not usually enter a conflict by stating what is most important to them
  • You can only problem solve if you know what the other person really wants
  • People usually enter a conflict with only one solution (theirs) to a problem

9. Let go of the myths about conflict

  • Conflict is not a contest—don’t make it one
  • Conflict is not always negative

10. Remember the four principal approaches to conflict

  • Acknowledge the conflict
  • If you resist, they will push even harder
  • To acknowledge does not mean to agree
  • Be willing to change

11. When initiating a conversation about a conflict

  • Ask the other party if they are willing to have a conversation
  • Tell them the topic and the importance of the conversation to you in maintaining a good relationship
  • Allow them to save face

12. Be open to learning new information