Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Conflict resolution is the process of settling disagreements and finding a solution that satisfies all parties. If one party leaves a dispute feeling satisfied and another party leaves feeling unheard and disappointed in the result of the conflict, a successful resolution has not been met.
Conflict is any situation where conflicting perspectives result in participating parties to go against each other. In short, conflict is disagreement. There are varying degrees of conflict but resolution always requires the same set of skills.
Unhealthy conflict can result in bickering, arguing and flat out fighting. This usually happens because the opposing parties of said conflict are seeking to push their point on the other party as opposed to understand and be understood. The number one priority in successful communication is understanding. We reach this objective only when we fully and completely are accepting of the fact that perspectives outside of our own have validity as well, even though we may not agree with them. We need to embrace the idea that our own frame of reference is not the only truth that exist. With this thinking we can become open to patiently hearing each other out in order to understand their point of view so that we can start to work our way to an amicable resolution.
If you’ve ever been in a conflict and unsure how to handle it or unhappy with the outcome, the good news is that conflict resolution is an easily learnable skill. All it takes is some effective communication and openness to other perspectives. Below are some tips to handle a conflict productively.
1. ACKNOWLEDGE THERE IS A CONFLICT
The first indication that you may be in conflict with another person is your emotions. Are irritated, angry, annoyed, ect.? These negative emotions are your warning that you are in conflict. Do no use this as an opportunity to give into these emotions and escalate the situation. That wouldn’t be productive. Instead see it as an opportunity that you can now practice your conflict resolution skills to get both of you to a place of understanding.
2. BE WARY OF YOUR TONE
Watch your tone and body language and make sure you are not subtly displaying a posture of aggressiveness or anger. This will put those who you are in conflict with on the defense and make the situation worse. Settle your tone into a calm, patient and open demeanor especially when dealing with a very irate individual who is exhibiting signs that they may not yet have developed the skills to communicate effectively or resolve a conflict. Their strong response is not an excuse for you to escalate the situation. This is your time to shine as a skilled communicator and start to find a solution that leaves everyone feeling at peace.
3. USE ACTIVE LISTENING
Seek to understand the perspective of those you are in conflict with and use active listening. Active listening requires you to withhold your judgement, pay attention to what is being said, clarifying any vague information and showing that you truly do understand what is being communicated to you. When you have gotten all of the information, repeat it back in your own words to the person you are in conflict with. This is a great way to confirm that you do understand their grievances and don’t be afraid to take a moment to reflect before you respond.
4. EXPLORE ANY UNDERLYING ISSUES
Quite often when we are in disagreement with someone we might not be getting to the root of what the problem actually is. For example let’s say you are a concierge at a hotel and a guest arrives to check in. They booked a room with a view but something went wrong with the reservation and there are no more of that type of room is available. The customer immediately gets irate. If the concierge uses their active listening skills to find the underlying issue as opposed to making assumptions, they might discover that the real reason the customer requested that room was not necessarily for the view, but for the extra light exposure. If that’s the case, maybe the concierge can’t offer a view room, but can still offer the guest with a room that gets ample natural light. Underlying issue discovered and the conflict is resolved.
5. FIND A MUTUALLY AGREEABLE SOLUTION
The whole purpose of conflict resolutions is to find a solution that works for the both of you. Using your creative problem solving skills and your openness to hearing the other person out will get you to this place of resolution. Both parties may not have gotten precisely what they wanted out of the situation but at least they are able to compromise enough to get them both to a satisfactory place.