7 Proven Steps to Effectively Resolve Conflict

Is there someone in your office or workplace you just can’t seem to get along with? Do you lock heads with the same person in every meeting? Is there someone that always takes the opposing argument to every point you make? Perhaps you have a conflict you simply can’t ignore any longer.

Here are 7 proven steps to effective conflict resolution:

1. Notice the symptoms – Some of the tell tale signs of conflict are frequent or ongoing tension between you and the other person. Perhaps you observe that the other person is withdrawing or distancing themselves from you in meetings and events. Alternatively, you may notice that you are often arguing with this person or one of you is often critical or judgmental of the other. Maybe you feel defensive when you are around this person or perhaps you notice they go on the defense when you speak to them. These are all potential signs or symptoms of conflict and they need to be addressed.

2. Deal with the conflict – Decide you are going to deal with the conflict head on. If you notice any of the above conflict symptoms, then you need to initiate a conversation. You will need to get agreement from the other person that there is an issue to be discussed. Make sure you set aside an appropriate amount of time to deal with the conflict. While it is best to deal with an issue as soon as it arises, you will want to ensure that both of you have “cooled off” first. Make sure the time and place is right for the discussion. You will require some private space where no one else can hear your discussion. Set a time limit and agree to meet again if the issue is still unresolved by the end of your allotted time.

3. Define the conflict – When the two of you meet to discuss the conflict, you will need to clearly state the issue as you understand it. Articulate what you are noticing and how it’s making you feel? Ask what is going on? Seek to understand the nature of the conflict by asking open ended questions. Acknowledge any needs that are not being met. Take responsibility for your own feelings, emotions, and behavior. I find it’s best to speak in first person using “I” messages rather than “you“. Refrain from blaming the other person. For example: “I feel frustrated when I don’t get a response to my emails, it makes me think my suggestions aren’t important” works better than “You never take my suggestions seriously, you didn’t respond to my last 4 emails.” In addition, find a way to express empathy and
understanding and to validate the feelings of the other person. Note that this is not the same as agreeing with the other person. Use language such as “I appreciate” and “I respect” instead of “I agree with“.

4. Get to the root of the issue – Uncover the areas that you both agree on. Practice interactive listening and seek as many areas of agreement as you can. Conflict often arises from the smallest detail. Ensure that you both get to fully express your feelings, your perspectives, and your opinions. Take responsibility for your part in any misunderstandings. Make sure you use this opportunity to express what you each want from the other. Take a genuine interest in getting to know what’s important to the other person. If the discussion turns heated, ask for some “time-out” so that you can “cool off” before continuing the discussion.

5. Explore resolution opportunities – Jointly brainstorm possible opportunities for resolution. Seek a collaborative win-win outcome with a high focus on the relationship. It may require some compromise.

6. Choose the best resolution option – Together choose a resolution that meets the needs of both parties. It’s okay to admit if you were unreasonable, demanding, or too reactionary. Apologize when appropriate. Make sure to discuss how to avoid similar conflict in the future.

7. Close and celebrate – When the conflict has finally been resolved, close the issue and find a way to celebrate even if the celebration is symbolic. (i.e. handshake)

Don’t shy away from conflict. Avoidance is not a solution for dealing with conflict situations. Deal with the issues quickly and decisively, and people will respect you for your transparency and for taking action they may have felt awkward initiating.

Interested in some coaching to resolve personal or workplace conflict? Contact Linda at 416-617-0734 or Email linda@lindacattelan.com.

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