Your first step in resolving a conflict should be to determine the best time and place for a discussion. You should also allow plenty of time for the discussion so that everyone has a chance to air their views and work on reaching a solution.
People naturally respond in different ways to conflict situations. Four typical types of responses are:
No one approach to conflict is always best. Instead, each conflict situation is unique, and the situation will determine the most appropriate response. In general, collaboration is the most effective response to a conflict and should be used wherever possible. With this “win-win” approach, you include all parties to try to find solutions that satisfy everyone. Collaborating creates partners rather than opponents — it’s based on an “us versus the problem” rather than a “you versus me” mind-set.
To collaborate effectively, you need to listen acceptingly to the other person, describe your views constructively, and find a mutually beneficial solution. Sometimes people have a lot on their minds, and this makes it difficult for them to listen properly. But to find solutions to a conflict, you need to understand the problem — and knowing your own position gives you only half the picture.
Listening well to the other party in a conflict situation requires you to do a number of things:
You validate other people’s views on a matter — and their interests, intentions, and needs — by accepting that what they say is true for them, rather than responding in a judgmental or critical way.
You should give them the floor to speak their mind, and periodically check your understanding by paraphrasing what they’ve said as neutrally as possible, or by asking questions to clarify any points you may not understand. And don’t interrupt to offer your own opinion at this point. Also, don’t be afraid of silence. Allow the other person to collect his thoughts.
Although it’s important to share how you feel, you need to be careful how you go about this. To prevent tempers flaring, you need to describe your views constructively. For example, you should avoid phrasing that implies the other person is at fault. It helps to use “I” language rather than “you” language, which can sound accusatory. And avoid words like “always” and “never” — these are exaggerations and can seem provocative.
You’re more likely to be taken seriously if you make accurate statements. You should stick to what you observe and feel, rather than what you think or believe. Try to talk about how the other person’s behavior makes you feel. Avoid judging, blaming, or criticizing, and don’t ask loaded questions. The use of humor or sarcasm can confuse your message, making it unclear or seem unimportant. It’s better to avoid both because it’s important to be clear about how you feel.
As you’re working through the conflict, it’s also important to validate the viewpoint of the other party and to recognize their contribution. When you outline a resolution, your aim is to find solutions for the future, rather than talk about past problems. You also need to focus on the issue rather than the person. Finally, staying positive is key. You should talk about what you want rather than what you don’t want. It’s important to be firm and clear, both when you express your feelings and when you outline a resolution.
When you understand the issues in a conflict and have expressed your feelings, as well as described how you would like the situation to be resolved, you need to decide on a solution that suits all parties.
You can help generate effective options by following these guidelines:
To find a win-win solution, you should listen to the other person’s objections and take them into account when deciding on the best option. You shouldn’t let your own interests be sidelined, but express your views constructively and accept that you may need to compromise a little. Finally, when you think you’ve found a solution, make sure everyone is satisfied with it.
To resolve conflict successfully, you should begin by finding an appropriate time and place for the parties involved to talk openly. You should also analyze the situation to decide whether you should force your view, give in, compromise or collaborate.
Generally, collaborating is the best approach — it involves working together to find a solution that benefits all parties. Three key skills support effective collaboration. These are listening acceptingly, describing your views constructively, and finding mutually beneficial solutions.