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12 Conflict Resolution Tips

Conflict is part of life, but understanding how to handle conflict can make all the difference between strained or thriving relationships. Here are 12 conflict resolution tips to consider.

Get to the Heart of the Conflict

Understanding the conflict is often the first step of effective conflict resolution, reports the Center for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. Consider your position in the conflict and what a possible resolution could be.

Deal With the Discomfort

Often, having difficult conversations about conflicts can be challenging. However, it’s important to deal with the discomfort and have the conversations anyway, claims Cornell University.

Listen to Both Sides

Every story has two sides, and it’s important that both parties are able to express themselves properly. Use “I-based” statements, like “I feel” and “I would like” instead of “you should” when discussing conflict, suggests Clarke University.

Express Yourself Honestly

When it comes to talking about your emotions, you may be hesitant to let the other person know that you might be angry, fearful or frustrated. However, it’s usually good to express these emotions directly, reports NC State University.

Don’t React Negatively

In addition to actively listening to the other person, be sure not to react to the other person getting emotional. Don’t start yelling, for example, advises the Center for Community Health and Development.

Don’t Swear at or Degrade Others

Whatever the problem, using foul language or being mean can be harmful to the situation. Be calm, and don’t escalate the problem, notes Clarke University.

Don’t Jump to Solutions

While it may seem logical to offer solutions from the outset, Cornell University reports that it’s a common problem during conflict resolution. It’s important to first get to the heart of the conflict.

Be Okay With Just a Conversation

Conflict resolution strategies can start with just a conversation and no solution yet. Cornell University says that getting an idea about how to start dealing with the problem can be good enough at the beginning.

Identify Needs

In any conflict, it’s helpful to figure out the needs of both parties, according to NC State University. That can help in moving forward with possible solutions.

Be Willing to Validate the Other Person

One good conflict resolution strategy is accepting that there may be two differing sides. However, each person should feel validated in the way he or she feels, reports NC State University.

Forgiveness Goes a Long Way

Many conflicts require forgiveness from one or both parties, claims Entrepreneur. Apologizing and forgiving, rather than holding grudges, can go a long way in resolving the issue.

It Takes Work

Understanding that conflict resolution takes work is important. However, the work is important in order to move forward and embrace new opportunities, says La Sierra University.


problem solving and conflict resolution techniques

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13 Conflict Resolution and Problem Solving

Chapter 13 Check-in:

  • Identify Conflict Causes and Effects
  • Explore Conflict Approaches Solutions
  • Basic Problem Solving Strategy PDCA

Like all communication, good conflict management and resolution requires your time: listen, reflect, and consider all elements of a situation and the people involved.  It is not a simple process and there are some steps to help you navigate the process.  In the end, it is about the relationship.

Frequently considered a negative, conflict can actually be an opportunity for growth in relationship or work.  Your attitude towards the situation and person plays a role in any outcome.  Adam Grant, Professor of Psychology at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management, notes that “The absence of conflict is not harmony, it’s apathy.  If you are in a group where people never disagree, the only way that could ever really happen is if the people don’t care enough to speak their minds.” (Grant, February 2021).

However, it is easy to feel at a loss in an immediate conflict situation.  Here are some brief points to consider when faced with more than just a disagreement.

Conflict is emotional: it is much greater than a difference of opinions.  It is usually an expression of not being heard, seen, valued or respected.   It is based on a deeply person need and emotional response, based on perceptions which have identified a threat in any form.  If conflict is ignored, it can fester and result in such entrenched opinions and sides that resolution appears impossible (Segal et al, 2020).

The first step is to determine what the actual problem is as perceived by all parties.  The Conflict Tree analogy is especially useful if you respond well to visuals (O’Connor, 2020).  It is an excellent activity for a group or individual to clarify the effects (branches), core problems (trunk), and even causes of the issue (roots).

Once the actual problem is identified, you can move on to tackling a resolution together.

Approaches to Conflict

There are generally five styles for approaching conflict (Benoliel, 2017) and understanding what they are and what style you lean towards, identifies how you will move through the process.  These categories are determined by whether the focus is on the relationship or the end goal of a task/project.  While these may be more specific to workplace conflicts, they certainly identify personal conflict responses as well.

Collaboration is marked by a balanced focus on the relationship with others and meeting long-term objectives.  A Competition style is marked by individuals who are assertive and probably uncooperative who demonstrate that their priority is the outcome of the project more than the relationships.  Although few people enjoy conflict, the Avoidance style focuses on the the immediate unpleasantness and therefore avoids the issues.  This traditionally marks individuals who are unassertive and uncooperative largely because they assume it is safer to ignore than face an issue.  Sometimes there are individuals who will do anything to please others: this Accommodation approach results in self-sacrifice and is usually the route taken by those who care more about the relationship than the outcome.  Unfortunately, they are frequently taken advantage of in their efforts to please others.  Lastly, there are those who prefer the Compromise strategy. This may seem expedient in the attempt to resolve the problem by aiming for mutually acceptable terms and concessions, it does frequently leaves no one side satisfied even though it allows most to maintain an assertive and cooperative stance.

Strategies for Solutions

Sometimes those involved in conflict turn to an third person for assistance to resolve a conflict.  A mediator can listen to the perspectives of those in the dispute and focuses on helping each side hear the concerns and priorities of the other.  Working with the individuals in conflict, a mediator aims to help them create a solution acceptable to both sides.  Sometimes the third party is an Arbitrator whose role is to hear each side and provide a decision to resolve the dispute.  In some cases the conflict results in the even more formal process of a trial.

There are four key skills you need to approach conflict resolution with or without a third party involved (Segal et al, 2020; Fighting Fair, n.d.).

Conflict can be a very stressful experience and your Stress Management is an essential first step.  When we are stressed, we can’t think clearly, we can’t understand someone else’s thoughts or feelings, and it makes communication very difficult.  Use whatever method works best for you to manage your stress.

Once your stress is managed, it is easier to exert Control over your Emotions.  Recognize the emotions you are experiencing to assist in your processing the experience without having a purely emotional response.

With your stress and emotions recognized and managed, it makes it easier to recognize and pay attention to the feelings you and the other people express  and you can Identify Non-Verbal Communication.   Much is said without words and body language is a good indication of how the other person feels towards the situation.

Respect each other is standard for every communication situation and essential to remember if you are in a position of conflict.  Personal attacks, or drawing on personal knowledge, has no productive part in conflict resolution.

Many resources may explain the benefits of humour, but caution should be used.  Sometimes an emotional situation is not the best time for humour as you can unintentionally be seen to diminish the importance another person places on the experience.

Work together to identify the problem by taking the time to see it from multiple perspectives.  Be clear about the desired results and end goal.  Think about the relationships and long term impacts that any course of action may have on all parties.  It takes commitment to resolve a conflict.

Problem Solving

We covered Reflection and Feedback in Chapter 12 and these are essential steps for effective conflict resolution and problem solving. Even the Trial and Error process of problem solving relies on evaluating the success of an action before moving on to another attempt.

Many different approaches to problem solving exist though the basic core approach can be seen across geographic and language borders.  The PDCA approach – Plan, Do, Check, Act – provides the basic four steps process that can be expanded to suit any profession or experience (Plan, Do, Check, Act, 2021).

Problem solving starts with a clear identification of problem.  Then you need to clarify the desired end result.  The development of a plan can be as short or as long as necessary.  Once you have a plan, you have to implement it: Do.  Check is your opportunity to evaluate the success of your plan and make any amendments necessary.  Finally, Act: put your strategy into practice.  An important point to remember is that the reflection and evaluation should be an ongoing part of the solution you implement.

Chapter 13 Check-out:

  • Explore Conflict Approaches and Solutions

Remember your last conflict with another person.  How was it resolved?  How would you like it to have been resolved?  What could you have done to implement that change in result?

How do you usually approach problem solving?  How successful has it been for you? 

What, if anything, would you like to change about how you’ve problem solved in the past?

Resources and References

Benoliel, B. (2017). Five styles of conflict resolution.  Walden University.  [Online]

Fighting Fair to Resolve Conflict. (n.d.).  Counselling and Mental Health Centre. University of Texas at Austin. [Online]

Goleman, D. (April 2012). Daniel Goleman Introduces Emotional Intelligence .  Big Think. [Online]

Grant, A., (February 2021). The Easiest Person to Fool .  The Hidden Brain. NPR Podcast. [Online]

Grant, A., (April 2021). The Science of Productive Conflict . TED Podcast. [Online]

O’Connor, T., (October 2020). 3 Simple Conflict Analysis Tools That Anyone Can Use. [Online]

Plan Do Check Act: A Simple Problem Solving Methodology. (2021). [Online]

Segal, J., Robinson, L., and Smith, M. (2020). Conflict Resolution Skills. [Online]

Media Attributions

  • Brain Ponder © Luc Grenier

Copyright © by Wendy Ward is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Conflicts are inevitable when a number of people will be working together. Conflict is defined as a “difference in opinion or some kind of disagreement between two or more parties”. Conflicts need to be resolved effectively. It is not only important to resolve the conflict, but also is equally important to ensure that the parties involved in conflict do not unnecessarily end up being in any kind of emotional stress during the resolution process of the conflict. Striking a balance between resolving the conflict to find the decision and maintaining the emotional well-being of the people involved will be critical to successful conflict management.

Hence it is important to understand clearly, what is a conflict, why conflict occurs, the challenges in resolving conflicts, and various methods for resolving conflicts. 

There are two views on conflicts or the so-called differences in opinion between people. The traditional view says “conflicts are bad and should be totally discouraged”, and the new modern view says” conflicts can be constructive and good and different ways of thinking should be encouraged to get multiple ideas and solutions to problems in hand”. 

Let us approach conflict management with the idea that conflicts can be good for the team. So for effective conflict management, there is a need for creating a right atmosphere that empowers people to think originally and encourages them to put forth their suggestions and opinions without fear. And the members are encouraged to resolve conflicts among themselves with a very open and collaborative mind. People need to rise above their personal emotions while resolving conflicts and they need to think about the final goals of the project or work at hand. A manager should intervene in resolving a conflict when the involved team members will not be able to resolve it on their own. A hands-on PMP training followed by the certification helps managers resolve conflicts with greater conviction.

Some of the sources of conflict include disagreements on schedules, cost, priorities, technical opinions, resources, administrative procedures, and personality. Personality-related conflicts should completely be discouraged. 

Some of the conflict resolution techniques are as follows:

1. problem solving / collaboration / confronting.

In this method, people involved in the conflict or having a difference in opinion, come forward to discuss the problem at hand with a very open mind. They focus on resolving the conflict and finding the best alternative/solution for the team. They discuss rising above personal emotions with the sole intention to finding what is best for the team. This leads to a win-win kind of outcome. Here everyone collaborates.

2. Compromising/Reconciling

Sometimes for certain conflicts, there will be a need for the involved parties to think of a middle path wherein both parties decide to give up something and identify a resolution. This kind of solution will be temporary for that moment and are not a long-lasting solution. This leads to a lose-lose kind of outcome as both parties may feel they have lost something.

3. Withdrawing/Avoiding

In some situations, one of the parties in the conflict may decide to retract from the discussion and allows going with the other person’s opinion. Or some situations, one of the parties may decide to completely avoid the conflict by maintaining silence. This works well in situations where one of the parties in the conflict is emotionally charged up or is angry. Hence avoiding any conflict resolution provides a “cooling off” period for the people involved so that they can later come back for meaningful resolution.

4. Forcing/Competing

In some situations, a person with authority and power can force his/her opinion and resolves the conflict without giving any chance to the other party/person. This leads to a win-lose kind of outcome. Someone may end up feeling like a loser while the other person with authority may feel as a winner. This technique can be used if we see that conflicts are unnecessary and destructive for the team.

5. Smoothing/Accommodating

This is a technique that is used when the atmosphere seems to be filled with apprehension/distrust among the parties involved. And no one is coming forward for resolving the conflict. In these kinds of scenarios, one of the parties can take charge and tries to smooth the surrounding by using nice words and by emphasizing the points of agreement, and playing down the points of disagreement. This can work as a catalyst to break the discomfort between the involved parties by creating a feeling of trust and encouraging them to come forward and resolve the conflict.

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Article • 9 min read

Conflict Resolution

8 ways to resolve conflict in the workplace.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

Where there are people, there is conflict. We each have our values, needs and habits, so it's easy to misunderstand or irritate one another – or worse, to fall into conflict.

Left unchecked, conflict can lead to bad decisions and outright disputes, bullying or harassment. Teamwork breaks down, morale drops, and projects grind to a halt. Organizations feel the hit with wasted talent, high absenteeism, and increased staff turnover.

But conflict can be resolved. What's more, it can bring issues to light, strengthen relationships, and spark innovation – so long as you don't try to ignore it!

In this article, we'll explore different types of conflict, what causes conflict, and how to reach a positive outcome when you find yourself in conflict with a co-worker. (To identify the signs of conflict occurring between other people and to help them overcome their conflict with one another, we recommend our follow-on article, Resolving Team Conflict .)

Conflict Resolution Definition

Generally, workplace conflicts fall into two categories:

  • Personality conflict or disagreements between individuals. These clashes are driven and perpetuated by emotions such as anger, stress and frustration.
  • Substantive conflict is tangible and task-related, like the decisions leaders make, the performance of a team member, or your company's direction.

If unaddressed, both can spiral into wider conflict between teams, departments or businesses. Conflict resolution can be defined as the process of identifying, addressing, and resolving disagreements or disputes among employees in a professional setting, thereby fostering a positive and productive work environment.

What Causes Conflict at Work?

Some of the most common causes of workplace conflict are:

  • Unclear responsibilities . Some team members may feel they do more work than others, or resent those who seem to have fewer responsibilities. Blame and frustration can build due to duplicated work or unfinished tasks.
  • Competition for resources . Time, money, materials, equipment, and skillsets are finite resources. Competition for them can lead to conflict.
  • Different interests . People may focus on personal or departmental goals over organizational ones. Or be held up and frustrated by others who they rely on to do their jobs effectively.

Read our article on Bell and Hart's Eight Causes of Conflict for more sources of – and solutions to – disputes.

Five Conflict Resolution Strategies

When you find yourself in a conflict situation, these five strategies will help you to resolve disagreements quickly and effectively:

1. Raise the Issue Early

Keeping quiet only lets resentment fester. Equally, speaking with other people first can fuel rumor and misunderstanding.

So, whether you're battling over the thermostat or feel that you're being micromanaged, be direct and talk with the other party. However, if you're afraid of making that approach, or worry that it may make the problem worse, speak with your manager first, or your HR department if the other party is your manager.

Either way, be assertive (not aggressive) and speak openly. This will encourage others to do the same – and you can get to the root cause of a problem before it escalates.

2. Manage Your Emotions

Choose your timing when you talk to someone about the conflict. If you're angry, you may say something you'll regret and inflame the situation. Be careful to avoid playing the blame game .

So stay calm, collect yourself, and ask, "What is it I want to achieve here?", "What are the issues I'm having?" and "What is it that I would like to see?"

See our article Managing Your Emotions at Work for more insight and tips.

3. Show Empathy

When you talk to someone about a conflict, it's natural to want to state your own case, rather than hear out the other side. But when two people do this, the conversation goes in circles.

Instead, invite the other party to describe their position, ask how they think they might resolve the issue, and listen with empathy .

Putting yourself in the other person's shoes is an essential part of negotiation. This helps you to build mutual respect and understanding – and to achieve an outcome that satisfies both parties.

4. Practice Active Listening

To identify the source of the conflict you have to really listen. To listen actively:

  • Paraphrase the other party's points to show you're listening and really understand them.
  • Look out for non-verbal signals that contradict what they are saying, such as a hesitant tone behind positive words. Bring these out into the open sensitively to address them together.
  • Use appropriate body language , such as nodding your head, to show interest and to make it clear that you're following them.

Go further with Empathic Listening or Mindful Listening .

5. Acknowledge Criticism

Some of the things the other person tells you may be difficult to hear. But remember that criticism or constructive feedback is about job behaviors and not you as a person.

So, keep an open mind and use criticism to help you to identify areas to improve, perform better next time, and grow.

Glasers' Three-Step Strategy for Conflict Resolution

Conflict management consultants Peter and Susan Glaser recommend a three-step strategy for resolving conflict, and it draws on many of the skills we've looked at above. You can hear the Glasers talking about their model in our exclusive interview with them. [1]

The steps for these conflict resolution skills are:

  • Prove that you understand their side.
  • Acknowledge that you are part of the problem.
  • Try again if the conversation didn't go well.

Let's try a training exercise and apply each step to a fictional conflict resolution scenario.

Conflict Resolution Training Example

Imagine that the heads of two departments are in conflict. Product Manager Sayid changed the price of a product without letting Marketing Manager Gayanne know. As a result, the marketing team sent out an email to customers with incorrect prices. They had to send out a follow-up email apologizing for the error, and make good on the price some customers paid for the product.

1. Prove That You Understand Their Side

Instead of blaming Sayid, Gayanne asks him how he came to make the decision. She uses her questioning and listening skills to get the information she needs and to show that she's truly hearing Sayid's response.

She discovers that Sayid was pressured by a major client to drop the price or risk losing a contract. She empathizes , saying, "Yes, I've had difficulties with that client before, too."

As Susan Glaser says, "Only when you believe that I understand you, will you be willing to try to understand my perspective." [2]

2. Acknowledge That You Are Part of the Problem

If you're in conflict with someone, it's unlikely you're free of all blame. So admit your part in it. This leads to mutual trust, a better understanding of one another, and makes it easier to find a solution.

In our scenario, Gayanne could say to Sayid, "I should have shared our marketing strategy and email send dates with you. I'll do that right away."

3. Try Again if the Conversation Doesn't Go Well

Despite the progress they've made, relations between the two managers remain frosty, so Sayid calls Gayanne the following week. He says, "I was thinking about our conversation, and I'd like to try again because I'm not happy with how it went. I've had time to take your points on board, and I'd like to talk about how we can work together better going forward."

Remember that you get more than one shot at resolving a conflict. Susan Glaser says, "There's a myth that if we have a bad conversation with someone it's over. In fact, 'do overs' are powerful." [3]

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is conflict resolution important in the workplace?

Unresolved conflicts can hinder productivity and damage team dynamics. Effective conflict resolution helps maintain a positive work environment, promotes collaboration, and ensures issues are addressed before they escalate.

What are some common sources of workplace conflicts?

Workplace conflicts can arise from differences in communication styles, conflicting goals, personality clashes, misunderstandings, resource allocation, or competing priorities. Recognizing these sources is crucial for timely intervention.

How can a team manager effectively address conflicts among team members?

A team manager should act as a mediator and facilitator. Begin by listening to both sides, understanding perspectives, and acknowledging emotions. Encourage open dialogue, find common ground, and work together to find a solution that is fair and beneficial for all parties.

What strategies can managers employ to prevent conflicts from escalating?

Managers can implement proactive measures such as fostering a transparent communication culture, setting clear expectations, defining roles and responsibilities, and promoting team-building activities. By addressing potential sources of conflict early on, managers can prevent minor issues from turning into major disputes.

How does effective conflict resolution contribute to team productivity?

Resolving conflicts promptly maintains a harmonious working environment where team members feel valued and understood. This leads to improved morale, increased focus on tasks, and a more efficient workflow, ultimately enhancing overall team productivity.

When is it appropriate to involve higher management in conflict resolution?

Involving higher management should be considered when conflicts cannot be resolved at the team level or when the conflicts involve larger organizational issues. Higher management can provide a neutral perspective and additional resources to facilitate resolution.

Conflict is common in the workplace. The biggest mistake you can make is to do nothing. Unresolved tensions can affect the health and performance of people and organizations.

So, hone these five conflict resolution skills to pre-empt, manage and fix conflicts with your co-workers:

  • Raise the issue early.
  • Manage your emotions.
  • Show empathy.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Acknowledge criticism.

Then try the Glasers' three-step conflict resolution strategy to resolve issues together:

  • Try again if the conversation doesn't go well.

In the process, you may even discover positives such as improved processes, strengthened relationships, and innovation!

[1] [2] [3] Mind Tools interview with Peter A. Glaser, Ph.D. and Susan R. Glaser. Available here .

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Conflict Resolution, problem solving, and mediation

  • Introduction

Four Strategies to manage conflict

  • Conflict resolution outcomes

Benefits from conflict management and problem solving

Conflict resolution and problem solving terms, characteristics of a conflict resolution and problem solving environment.

  • General suggestions
  • Six step conflict resolution procedure for problem solving

Other Conflict resolution, mediation, or problem solving heuristics

  • Strategies to overcome impasse

Arbitration and Mediation

Mediated conflict resolution, zero tolerance as a way to reduce conflict.

  • Violence program summaries

Sometimes we assume all conflicts are destructive, have no value and we try to suppress, avoid, and deny their existence. Conflicts occur all the time: who to sit by at lunch, when to get on task, when to play, when to talk, when to be quiet, when to listen, what game to play at recess, and who is going to do what.

We should recognize conflicts as inevitable, healthy and valuable; not as problems but as opportunities to discover new solutions as we learn to manage conflict constructively.

Conflicts happen when incompatible solutions are sought. Since long-term relationships are important, people and groups must manage conflicts and maintain positive relationships.

This page reviews four strategies to manage conflict and possible outcomes or resolutions. Benefits for conflict management to solve problems and characteristics for a problem solving environment to resolve conflicts. Six step procedure for resolving problems and general suggestions for its implementation and some strategies to remove impasses and assist a resolution. Finally, notes on zero tolerance and violence programs are included.

Problem-Solving Negotiation : Seek solutions to ensure all parties achieve their goals and resolve any tensions or negative feelings between them. See six step conflict resolution procedure .

1. Smoothing : party gives up its goal to maintain the relationship at the highest possible level. Saying I'm sorry doesn't mean I'm wrong. It let's the other person know you are sorry about the situation when the goal is less important than the relationship.

2. Forcing a Win-Lose Negotiation : A party seeks to achieve its goal by forcing or persuading the other party to yield their goal. Strategies include threats, imposing penalties, preemptive actions to resolve without others knowledge or permission, persuasive arguments, impose a deadline, commit yourself to an unalterable position, and make demands that far exceed what is actually acceptable. The last strategy begins with an extreme opening position, and follows with a slow rate of compromise in an attempt to force the other party to concede. This strategy can be supplemented with persuasive arguments, threats, and attacks aimed at overpowering, overwhelming, or intimidating others. The purpose is to achieve the goal without concern for the needs or feelings of the other. The harder a party is pushed to give in, the harder the other person will push back. The more you force, the more the other resists and the angrier the other person becomes. When forcing is successful, winning may result in a sense of pride and achievement. When unsuccessful, it may result in depression, guilt, shame, and failure. It causes a high price of alienation and starts a spiral of win-lose tactics. Use when the goal is highly important and the relationship is not.

3. Compromise : Each person or group alters their goal toward the others goal. Methods to help people compromise are to split the difference, meet in the middle, flip a coin, or let chance decide. Use when the goal and the relationship are moderately important and you and the other person cannot seem to get what each want. Each gives up part of a goal and sacrifices part of the relationship to reach an agreement. Compromise when time is short, Sometimes half a loaf is better than none. Use when the goal is not important and you do not need to keep a relationship with the other person.

4. Withdraw : Leave, give up, submit, avoid the issue and the person.

Conflict becomes destructive when it's denied, suppressed, or avoided resulting in anger, fights, physical dominance, harassment, verbal attack, physical abuse, giving in, or cold shoulders. These actions do not resolve conflicts for benefit to all participants and instead result in alienating people.

Conflict Resolution Outcomes

  • Creatively solve problems
  • Learn what makes them angry
  • Understand what frightens them
  • Gain maturity
  • Become energized
  • Stimulated to enjoy solving a problem or competing
  • Increase motivation to learn
  • Arouse intellectual curiosity
  • Deepen relationships
  • Strengthen their convictions
  • Improve interpersonal relationships
  • Improve negotiating skills
  • Improve self-confidence and self-efficacy
  • Improve achievement
  • Improve reasoning
  • Are better able to deal with stress
  • Help understand what is important to them
  • Become less egocentric
  • Can gain and hold attention of others
  • Improve the quality of their decisions
  • Create joint identity and cohesiveness
  • A risk free environment with open honest communication, no physical violence against self or another person, no public humiliation and shaming, and no lying or deceit.
  • Participants motivated to succeed by self-regulation, external rewards, or punishment.
  • A cooperative context with all participants committed to achieve mutual goals or outcomes beneficial to all involved.
  • Frequent, complete, and truthful communication. All must accurately understand the different positions and motivations (wants, needs, or requests).
  • Positive interdependence so all participants desire to search for a successful solution to accommodate all legitimate interests.

General suggestions for creating a positive problem solving environment

  • Stay calm. This can be hard, but someone needs to be in control, keep the situation from escalating, and focus on achieving a solution.
  • Face the issue . Do not withdraw from or ignore a conflict. If you do, in addition to damaging the relationship, you will keep emotional energy tied up in anger, fear, resentment, hostility, dislike, sulkiness, uncooperativeness, sarcasm, or talking behind the other person's back and new conflicts will be linked with the old to create further costs.
  • Be honest . Generally the stronger the relationship, the more direct and open the discussion can be.
  • Focus on the problem not the person . Keep the discussion free of personal criticism, recriminations, abusive language, and especially subtle jibes that inflict pain. Make it clear that disagreement is with the ideas and actions and not a value of the person. Separate the criticism of actions and ideas from the idea that the rejection is a statement of value of a person. Keep a sense of humor. Keep all weapons out of reach. No one hurts another. Protect each other's ego. Provide acceptable reasons for people to switch viewpoints.
  • Start with empathy and validation . Consider what is happening within each person's brain. Stress, trauma, living situations, social situations, ... Try to move things from the primative brain, amygdala, ... and engage the frontal lobe to allow for rational choices to be possible.
  • Remember their behavior is likely more related to stress than lack of trust in you.
  • Think of it as an opportunity to break bad habits, reestablish norms, and teach.
  • Regularly use over communication . It can eliminate misunderstandings.
  • Remember, there is no magic solution. Change is hard because you know what you stand to lose, but not what you stand to gain.!
  • Collaborate with appropriate specialists, family members, teachers, support staff, and other community members.
  • Use Humor that is not sarcasatic or at the expense of another person.

Six Step Conflict Resolution for Problem Solving

1. describe the problem :.

Describe what each person wants, acknowledge and explain how their desires are part of a joint problem. Frame the problem as small, specific, and solveable.

  • Describe each person's wants, needs, or goals using words such as I, me, my, or mine.
  • Acknowledged that what each person desires is part of the problem.
  • Explain how each person's desires blocks what each wants.
  • Describe the behaviors. Do not judge, evaluate, or make inferences about people's motives, personality, or attitude.
  • Focus on a long-term cooperative relationship.
  • Use paraphrasing to determine what each understands, cares about, and if they are taking each other seriously.

The conflict is described as a joint problem. Drivers converging on a four way stop; can be seen mutual as:

  • A competition of chicken and therefore, loose-loose, if no one chickens out they all die in a headon crash;
  • Win-loose, if one runs the stop sign and the others chicken out; or
  • Win-win if each yields the right of way through a process of taking turns.

Define the conflict as a joint problem that is small, specific and solveable .

Example: Kickball game with an equal number of players on each team. I want to play and they won't let me.

  • Making it large and general: If you don't let me play, you are no longer my friend.
  • Keeping it small and specific: If they let me play, the teams will be uneven.

Both of these statements acknowledge and explain a joint problem: not getting to play and loosing friendship and getting to play and having uneven teams.

2. Describe how each person feels .

Name the feelings (I feel ...). Use sensory descriptions I feel stepped on. I feel like I'm on cloud nine. I feel like I've been run over by a truck. Report what kinds of action the feeling urges you to do. I feel like hugging, slapping, walking on ... Use figures of speech. I feel like road kill... Avoid labels, commands, questions, accusations, sarcasm, approval, disapproval, and name-calling.

3. Exchange reasons of positions .

Express cooperative intentions. Present your reasons and listen to the other person's reasons:

  • May I ask why?
  • Can you be more specific?
  • What do you mean when you say ...?
  • I'm not sure I understand.

Tone of voice is as important as the words. Focuses on wants and interests, not positions I won't do this homework.. . Focuses on why rather than the object or issue. Two students, who each want an object, are opposed as long as their interests are having the object. If you ask why? And if there are different interests, then the conflict can be resolved . Clarify the differences between one person's interests and the other person's interests. You will need to work at it as people are often not willing to express their desires because of fears and vulnerability.

Conflicts can not be resolved until all parties know what they are disagreeing about. When that is know, then empower each person to think of different possible solutions. There may be a better option than either can think of separately.

4. Understand each other's perspective .

Each must be able to take the other person's perspective and understand how it looks to that person. People have different perspectives that have developed from different life experiences. People tend to see only what they want to see and focus on facts that confirm to their beliefs and perceptions and disregard or misinterpret those that call their perceptions or belief into question.

Thus, they only see the merits of their case and the faults of the other side. If a person has been lifting 100 lb. of cement all day a 40 pound sack is light. On the other hand if they've been pushing a pencil all day, then a 40 pound sack is heavy. When you are hungry you notice food, when you are not you do not.

Therefore, you must not only logically understand the other person's view, but you must empathize with their point of view and feel the emotional force the other person believes in it. You may see a glass with a delicious drink. Another person may see a dripping glass that is going to ruin the wood of the expensive table. Change a person's perspective and you will change the way they seek to solve the conflict.

A perception check is the best way to see if each is understanding the other person's perceptions. Describe what each thinks the other person's feelings are. Ask if perceptions are accurate. Refrain from expressing approval or disapproval of the feelings. You look sad. Are you? Use paraphrase, Role play, or role reversal.

5. Invent options for mutual benefit .

Be open-minded don't judge prematurely. Look for multiple or complex solutions and not single answers. Look for more resources. Do not assume a fixed pie. You have a friend who does not want to go to a certain movie, but does want to go to a certain restaurant. By expanding the evening to include dinner and a movie the chances are better to agree, than just deciding on a movie. Focus on the future or long term rather than the immediate needs and goals. Explore the unknown and avoid the same decisions as in the past.

6. Reach a wise agreement .

Such agreements reach the legitimate needs of all participants and can be viewed fair to all. Describe what each person will do differently, might include communicating who does what, when, where, and how.

Realistically ask each to agree and share in that agreement. Review how the agreement can be reviewed and renegotiated if need be. Base the agreement on coin flip, third party, taking turns, sharing, equal use, arbitrator, scientific method, and community values.

Reasons for saying no to a suggested agreement:

Source: David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson (1995) Reducing School Violence Through Conflict Resolution ASCD

  • Problem Solving Rug
  • Conflict and me worksheet
  • Peace making formula
  • Four W's and an H
  • Problem solving heuristic - variable solutions and consequences
  • Problem solving - mediation

Teachers should weave conflict resolution procedures and skills into the fabric of school life. Examples include: follow-up lessons on improving communication skills, ways to control anger, appropriate assertiveness, problem solving skills, perspective-taking, creative thinking, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skills. Integration into subjects like social studies and literature by analyzing the people or characters, their actions or inactions, world events or plots of the stories with respect to conflict and their resolution.

Conflict management training should be repeated yearly for 13 years, with an increasing level of complexity and sophistication.

Strategies to Overcome Impasse


  • Tell the story of the conflict situation using a 'once upon a time' format.
  • When the story reaches the point of conflict, stop and ask for suggestions on how to resolve it.
  • Incorporate one of the suggestions in the story and conclude the story.
  • Ask the disputants if this suggestion would meet their needs and if it is a solution they might try it now or the next time they have a problem.

Problem Puppets

  • Use puppets to reenact the conflict.
  • Freeze the puppet role-play at a critical point in the conflict. Ask for suggestions. Incorporate one suggestion, and finish the play.
  • Repeat several different suggestions. Discuss whether each one will work to help children learn to think through the consequences of their suggestions.
  • Ask the children to pick the suggestion they think will work best.
  • Students set up an imaginary situation in which they act and react on assumptions and beliefs they select or are given for the characters they play.
  • Describe a conflict situation: give time, place, background and any other information to help students with the role. To help students get into their roles introduce them and the situation with descriptive and emotional words and voice fluctuations.
  • Act out the conflict and keep it short.
  • Freeze the role-play at critical points in the conflict. Ask for suggestions about what can be done next. Incorporate one suggestion into the situation and finish the role-play.
  • How could the conflict have been prevented?
  • How did the character feel in the situation?
  • Was it a satisfactory solution?
  • What other solutions might have worked?

Arbitration is a step of last resort. Arbitration tends to result in solutions that are less stable and less effective than those derived by problem solving. Anticipating that the arbitrator will split the difference, disputants may adopt a tough and extreme position, so a half-way position is more favorable to them.

Combining mediation and arbitration has two disadvantages . Participants believe they are being forced to reach agreement under mediation because arbitration will result, if they do not agree. The mediator may also become too forceful during the mediation session and shift prematurely to arbitration.

Arbitration Steps

  • Both persons agree to abide by the arbitrator's decision.
  • Both persons submit their desired goal to the arbitrator. Each party describes what he or she wants and would like to see happen.
  • Each person defines the problem and tells their side of the conflict.
  • Each person presents his or her case, no interruptions are allowed.
  • Each person has an opportunity to refute the other's contentions.

Teachers' primary responsibilities for successful arbitration

  • Building a cooperative context.
  • Teaching all students how to negotiate.
  • Teaching all students how to mediate.
  • Knowing how to mediate if peer mediation fails.
  • Knowing how to arbitrate if peer and teacher mediation fails.
  • Implementing the peer mediation process.
  • Structuring academic controversies so that students challenge each other's reasoning.

Arbitrator makes the decision. Winning or losing is assumed to be secondary to having had a fair opportunity to be heard.

Final offer arbitration

An alternative to conventional arbitration is final offer arbitration. Each disputant submits to the arbitrator his or her best, most conciliatory offer and the arbitrator makes a decision.

Mediator's steps:

  • End hostilities and cool off.
  • Ensure all people are committed to the mediation process.
  • Help each negotiate successful with each other ( six steps for resolving conflict ).
  • Formalize an agreement.
  • End Hostility and Cool off suggestions

Stop fights

Adults should always break up fights. Two adults should work together. Order students to stop and restrain them. Never restrain one student without restraining the other. Use restraint only in an emergency. Such action could cause the parties to turn on the teacher.

  • Train observers to leave and not to be spectators or
  • surround the dispute and chant stop fighting, or
  • singing a happy song: Row, Row, Row, Your Boat, or
  • distract and divert their attention, physical, and emotional energy. Hey whose $10?
  • Breaking eye contact between disputants will often stop a fight.

Cool off hostile individuals

  • Individuals can move to cool-off corners.
  • Use deep breathing and muscle relaxation. Take in a deep breath while counting to 10 and then back to 1, or
  • Tense all muscles and breath in, while muscles are tense hold breath for five seconds, slowly exhale and relax muscles for five seconds.
  • Imagine the anger leaking out your toes as you relax or imagine it drains away through the feet and walk away from it.
  • Engage in physical activity like jogging.

Reflect on a conflict, define it, and think of alternative ways to resolve it.

Move to a mediation area.

  • Select a neutral area.
  • The mediator may sit at one end of a table and disputants sit across from one another.
  • Put paper and a pencil on the table for each person.

Mediation Process Suggestions

  • Introduce your self and confirm the names of the disputants.
  • Introduce the purpose of the mediation process. Explain that you will not take sides or attempt to decide who is right or wrong.
  • Confirm if they are committed to succeed.
  • Go over the rules and elicit a promise to abide.

Rules for Mediating

  • Agree to solve the problem.
  • Use only the person's chosen name.
  • One person talks at a time.
  • Agree to abide by the agreement.
  • Everything that is said is confidential except for information on drugs, weapons, and alcohol
  • Ask for questions
  • Gather Information
  • Find the facts.
  • Analyze what everyone says to see if agreement is possible.
  • Enforce the rules (no interruptions, insults, or shouting).
  • Be patient.
  • Respect both students.
  • Ask all parties their wants
  • Ask how the other's actions interfere with their wants.
  • Ask how they felt.
  • Ask for three ways to resolve the conflict and reestablish a good relationship.
  • Ask for three ideas to try if it happens again.
  • Ask each if they have anything to say to the other party.
  • Assist Negotiations if disputants need help.

Summarize what happened and what they want.

  • Summarize how they feel.
  • Ask for their confirmation of your summary.
  • Ask them for reasons for their wants and feelings.
  • Ask for their understanding of the other's perspective, wants, feelings and rationale.
  • Ask for other optional agreements that maximize joint outcomes.

Try to have them select one option and reach an agreement.

The following ideas might help to recognize a need for agreement:.

  • Review or identify their common interests and the importance of maintaining a constructive long-term relationship.
  • Discuss how the future of the relationship is more important than any short-term advantage from winning.
  • Suggest the need for each other to reach an agreement.
  • Suggest that if the relationship is damaged, they will have future difficulties that will be worse than not getting what we want today.
  • Describe common interests to bring parties together and describe opposing interests as a mutual problem to be solved.

Other Hints

  • Encourage ownership of their feelings.
  • Use "I" messages.
  • Name the feeling or use sensory descriptions.
  • Avoid pressure to take sides.
  • Reduce emotional charges and language. Rather than saying "She is angry because you stole her purse," say, "She is angry because you had her purse." Rather than saying, "The two of you were yelling at each other about the $15," the mediator can say, "You talk to each other in loud ways when the topic of money comes up."
  • Paraphrase.
  • Restate the facts and summarize the events.
  • Reflect feelings.
  • Remain neutral.
  • Refuse to give advice or suggestions.
  • Avoid bringing up feelings and problems from you own experience.
  • Look for the positive.
  • Explore the multiple meanings of any one behavior.
  • "Think of situations in which that same behavior would be positive."
  • Increase motivation by highlighting the gains for resolution and the costs for no resolution.

Try for a particular agreement.

If disputants are not able to agree on what happened have them agree that they are in crisis.

  • See if they agree on how they will relate in the future. Future-oriented agreements will not force anyone to admit wrongdoing.
  • Try for a package deal and tradeoffs.
  • See if they will agree to a principle. I.e. students may not agree on whether one should replace a lost book but they may agree to the principle that it is wrong to solve problems by fighting.
  • Compromises are unstable because neither disputant gets all of what he or she wants and the relationship is not fully repaired.
  • Understanding is like peeling an onion. One layer reveals another layer underneath.
  • Equalizing power. It is hard for a low-power person to negotiate with a high-power person and vice versa. Help the less articulate person state his or her wants, feelings, and reasons to equalize power.

Teaching Students to be Peacemakers Program

Once students learn how to negotiate and mediate, the teacher may want to implement the Teaching Students to be Peacemakers Program. Each day, the teacher selects two class members to serve as official mediators by randomly assigning pairs. When all students have enough experience they may mediate individually. Mediators wear official T-shirts, hats, or armbands. Refresher lessons are conducted twice a week.

Teachers should weave conflict resolution procedures and skills into the fabric of school life. Examples include: follow-up lessons on improving communication skills, ways to control anger, appropriate assertiveness, problem solving skills, perspective-taking, creative thinking, intra personal, and interpersonal skills. Integration into subjects like social studies and literature by analyzing the people or characters, their actions or inactions, and world events or plot of the story with respect to conflict resolution.

Conflict management training should be repeated yearly for 12 years, with an increasing level of complexity and sophistication.

Adapted from David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson (1995) Reducing School Violence Through Conflict Resolution ASCD

References for Conflict Resolution Programs

  • Evidence of success for Out of School Programs
  • Teaching Students to be Peacemakers. Johnson and Johnson 1970-1994.
  • Children's Creative Response to Conflict (CCRC) Priscilla Prutzman.
  • Resolving Conflict Creatively by Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR)
  • Community Boards of San Francisco Conflict Managers Program . Ray Shonholtz response to Jimmy Carter's call for Neighborhood Justice Centers.

"Zero Tolerance" Trouble in New York - June 7, 2010 - Newsweek

WHEN CONGRESS passed a national school-violence policy in 1994, many states followed with even stricter measures. But those laws, it now seems, are based on a faulty premise: that courts are the best place for disciplining children.

The failure of this idea is clear in New York, where zero-tolerance policies have lead to arrests for gun possession on school grounds, but also for relatively minor offenses like shoving. Even nonviolent incidents—doodling, throwing food, back-talking—have landed kids in court, where last year New York sent more than 1 4OO minors (average age: less than l6) to correctional facilities.

According to a series of recent reports—by the Justice Department and the state Office of Children and Family Services—the institutions don't help. Nearly nine of 10 occupants commit additional crimes. It's a "school-to-prison pipeline," says Judith S. Kaye, the state's former chief judge.

She hopes the negative publicity will provide a push toward alternative modes of justice (like youth courts, where peers hear the cases of peers), more civics classes (where kids learn the virtues of sociability), and level headed adjudication—where detention doesn't always involve a cell. — T.D.

Violence Programs Summary

Violence programs have two major elements:.

  • Reactive violence prevention and
  • Proactive violence prevention

Source David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson (1995 ) Reducing School Violence Through Conflict Resolution ASCD

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes &

Beyond Intractability

Knowledge Base Masthead

The Hyper-Polarization Challenge to the Conflict Resolution Field: A Joint BI/CRQ Discussion BI and the Conflict Resolution Quarterly invite you to participate in an online exploration of what those with conflict and peacebuilding expertise can do to help defend liberal democracies and encourage them live up to their ideals.

Follow BI and the Hyper-Polarization Discussion on BI's New Substack Newsletter .

Hyper-Polarization, COVID, Racism, and the Constructive Conflict Initiative Read about (and contribute to) the  Constructive Conflict Initiative  and its associated Blog —our effort to assemble what we collectively know about how to move beyond our hyperpolarized politics and start solving society's problems. 

Problem Solving and Decision Making in Conflict Resolution

By eben a. weitzman and patricia flynn weitzman, summary written by: conflict research consortium staff.

Citation : "Problem Solving and Decision Making in Conflict Resolution." Morton Deutsch and Peter T. Coleman, eds.,  The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice  San Francisco: Jossey-Bas Publishers, 2000, pp. 185-209.

The authors describe the conflict resolution process as composed of two component processes: decision-making and problem solving. They describe each component, and develop a simple model of their interaction within the broader conflict resolution process.

The problem solving process involves two main parts: diagnosing the conflict, and developing alternative solutions. Diagnosis emphasizes identifying the parties' underlying interests. The goal of problem solving approaches is to find mutually acceptable solutions to problems. Solutions may take the form of a compromise, or agreement on a fair procedure for generating an outcome. Integrative, or win-win, solutions are the most desirable. Strategies for reaching solutions include increasing contested resources (expanding the pie), finding alternative forms of compensation (nonspecific compensation), trading off small concessions (logrolling), or creating new options that satisfy underlying interests (bridging).

Research shows that problem solving approaches to conflict resolution generate more agreements, more win-win outcomes, more outcome satisfaction in the short and long terms, and more durable solutions. Research also shows that problem solving approaches are more likely to be used by people in fair and cohesive organizations that recognize success and are open to innovation. Problem solving is more likely when parties are concerned for the others welfare, as well as their own.

Cognitive psychologists describe problem solving as a four stage process: Identifying the problem, generating alternative strategies, selecting and implementing a solution, and evaluating consequences. Cognitive psychology also suggests a model of interpersonal negotiation strategies that focuses on the different developmental levels of perspective taking by the parties. An egoistic perspective sees the other party as an object, and typical reactions include whining, ignoring, or hitting. The unilateral perspective recognizes the other as an individual, but interacts with them in terms of obedience, command or avoidance. A reciprocal perspective acknowledges the others' interests but still considers them secondary. Interactions take the form of exchange-oriented negotiations. From a mutual perspective, "the needs of both the self and the others are coordinated, and a mutual, third-person perspective is adopted in which both sets of interests are taken into account."(p. 193) Interactions are collaborative. Adoption of the mutual perspective is very important for high quality problem solving.

Individual and group decision making occurs throughout the conflict resolution process. Individual decisions include choosing strategies, deciding to trust, evaluating offers, and prioritizing concerns. Rational choice theory says that people make decisions based on their calculation of the utility of the desired outcome and the chance of that outcome occurring. There are a number of factors that affect these calculations. Whether an outcome is perceived as a gain or a loss depends on a person's reference point. Anchor points-- for example, the perceived best and worst possible outcomes--can also affect assessment of a choice. Generally people are loss-averse; they see avoiding loss as more important than achieving gain. Stress and emotional reactions also affect decision making.

Group decisions include whether to continue problem solving, whether to get help, which procedures to use, and which solution to choose. The authors identify common biases that interfere with good decision making. These include irrationally escalating commitments, assuming resources are fixed and outcomes must be win-lose, using information because it is available rather than relevant, and overconfidence. People may also be biased by the way information is presented, by irrelevant anchor points, or by failing to take the other party's perspective into account. Generally, people's notions of fairness tend to be biased in their own favor. Groups are more likely to reach integrative solutions when the parties' power is equal and their aspirations are high. When power is unequal, the low-power party is more likely to make mutually beneficial offers. Parties in negative or business relationships often want to do much better than their rivals, whereas parties in positive or personal relationships prefer more equal outcomes.

The first step in conflict resolution involves deciding what sort of conflict it is, and understanding the problem by identifying parties interests, goals, reasons, options, etc. Parties need to coordinate their perspectives. The next step is to brainstorm for alternative solutions to the problem. Techniques such as idea checklists or What If questions may also be helpful. The third step is to evaluate the alternatives and decide on a solution. Individual evaluative decisions must be brought together to reach a group decision. Here parties must be on guard against the various factors and biases that can undermine rational decision making. Finally, the parties must commit to their decision.

The authors suggest that problem solving and decision making techniques should be taught together in conflict resolution training programs. Training should explain the conditions that encourage adoption of a problem solving approach, and factors that undermine good decision making.

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The Top 5 Conflict Resolution Strategies for the Workplace

Although it's one of the most valuable skills you can have in today's professional world, conflict management is something than many individuals shy away from. Conflict is inherently uncomfortable for most of us, in both personal and professional contexts, but learning to effectively handle conflicts in a productive, healthy way is essential - especially at work.

This is especially true if you are in a leadership position . It's in your best interest - and in the best interest of your team - to be able to effectively manage conflicts as they arise. Learning strategies to resolve conflict is an essential part of leadership .

While conflict resolution is a skill that is best built through years of practice and experience, starting out with some of the most common and effective conflict resolution strategies will give you a strong foundation to work from for years to come.

The Top 5 Conflict Resolution Strategies

1. don't ignore conflict.

If you're someone who dislikes dealing with conflict, it might seem tempting to just put your head in the sand and pretend it doesn't exist, hoping it will resolve itself on its own. While this sometimes can happen, the truth is that the vast majority of the time, this will only cause the situation to get worse. Ignored conflicts have a tendency to fester over time and reappear at inopportune moments, so do your team a favor and address conflicts when they occur, nipping a potentially toxic situation in the bud as soon as you recognize it.

2. Clarify What the Issue Is

If you're dealing with a conflict between two members of your team, it's important that you get all the facts. Sit down with each individual involved and find out exactly what the issue is. How is each individual perceiving the situation? What needs are not being met? What does each party see as an appropriate resolution? Make sure that all parties involved understand that you are acting as an impartial mediator, and let them know they can feel comfortable to share sensitive information.

3. Bring Involved Parties Together to Talk

Once you've had a chance to talk to all involved parties separately, bring them together in a meeting so that they can hash out their differences in a neutral environment. This is a time for brainstorming, active listening, and being open to different perspectives - the goal is to come to a common understanding of what the problem is, what role each individual is playing in the conflict, and what some possible solutions might be.

4. Identify a Solution

After both parties have had a chance to discuss the situation at hand, it's time to identify what a satisfactory resolution might be - and how to get there. Ideally, by this point, both parties will understand the other's side, and oftentimes the conflict will be resolved just through facilitated, open dialogue. However, if the situation requires further resolution, you will need to step in and help them negotiate a reasonable solution. This phase can require some time and effort, as it requires both parties to set aside their differences and preferences and find some common ground to work towards (which may involve not getting everything they want out of the situation). Then, work with both individuals to come up with a concrete list of steps that will result in the solution being achieved.

5. Continue to Monitor and Follow Up on the Conflict

Just because a solution has been identified and addressed doesn't mean it will just go away. As a manager, it's your responsibility to check in with both parties to ensure that the conflict has truly been dealt with, and that the steps identified to reach a solution are being followed. If all seems to be going well, simply remember to stop and observe from time to time, just to see if things really are going smoothly or if there are still lingering tensions under the surface that need to be handled. If it's clear that the solution didn't work, or wasn't the right resolution for the situation, make sure to be proactive in working with both parties to readjust expectations, identify alternative solutions, and continue their dialogue to create a positive and healthy work environment.

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14 Conflict Resolution Strategies for the Workplace

Conflict Resolution

One lesson common to humanity is how to negotiate conflict skillfully.

In a keynote speech to graduate students in conflict analysis, international mediator Kenneth Cloke (2011) made a profound statement that has stayed with me to this day: “Conflict is the arrow pointing to what we need to learn the most.”

Interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution extend beyond social circles, affecting the workplace and illuminating lessons yet to be learned.

American businesses lose $359 billion yearly due to unresolved conflict and low productivity (Kauth, 2020). The physical, emotional, psychological, and interpersonal tolls are incalculable.

Can we seek a better understanding of conflict and transform its devastating effects?

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Work & Career Coaching Exercises for free . These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients identify opportunities for professional growth and create a more meaningful career.

This Article Contains:

What is conflict resolution & why is it important, 5 psychological benefits of conflict resolution, 7 examples of conflict resolution skills, how to do conflict resolution: 2 approaches, 6 methods and approaches to apply in the office, 6 strategies and techniques for the workplace, best activities, games, workbooks, and online tools, helpful books for managers and organizations, resources from, a take-home message.

Pruitt and Kim (2004, pp. 7–8) describe conflict as “perceived divergence of interest, a belief that the parties’ current aspirations are incompatible.”

Conflict resolution is an agreement reached when all or most of the issues of contention are cleared up (Pruitt & Kim, 2004).

Further, conflict management is a product of successful problem-solving in which the parties have worked out ways to de-escalate conflict and avoid future escalations.

Conflict can be disruptive and, at worst, destructive. Once it erupts, it’s hard to control (Bolton, 1986). Emotions run high during conflict, blocking the path to rational solutions.

Conflict resolution is important because “when people experience conflicts, much of their energy goes into emotions related to those conflicts” (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011, p. 2).

Some emotions commonly associated with conflict include fear, anger, distrust, rejection, defensiveness, hopelessness, resentment, and stress (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011; Bolton, 1986).

Another reason conflict resolution is important is because people involved in heavily contentious conflict are likely to experience “a wide range of psychological and physical health problems including weakened immune system, depression, alcoholism, and eating disorders” (Pruitt & Kim, 2004, pp. 11–12).

Clearly, languishing in this state of emotional upheaval and chaos is harmful emotionally, physically, and psychologically.

Conflict resolution: A theoretical framework

Realistic conflict theory assumes “conflict can always be explained by some tangible (like territory, money, prizes) or intangible (like power, prestige, honor) resource that is desired by both groups and is in short supply” (Pruitt & Kim, 2004, pp. 28–29).

This theory attempts to explain why conflict occurs as humans perpetually strive to acquire perceived needs.

Benefits conflict resolution

Cortisol released because of ongoing stress soaks the brain’s nerve cells, causing memories to shrink (Leaf, 2008).

This affects the ability to think creatively, a helpful component for resolution.

In addition, the stress response increases blood sugar levels, speeding up our heart rate to pump blood to our arms, legs, and brain in preparation to escape (Leaf, 2008). This physiological fight-or-flight reaction  saps precious energy.

Dealing with emotions first will help reduce emotional arousal and stress. Once the body returns to normal, rational problem-solving skills can resume. Typically, people get into trouble when they address conflict at the peak of emotional arousal.

For this reason, acknowledge that the issue needs to be addressed but wait until emotions subside before engaging in a discussion. This ensures the issue is not ignored. In other words, conflict can be scheduled .

Some psychological benefits of conflict resolution include (Arslan, Hamarta, & Usla, 2010; Sexton & Orchard, 2016; Bolton, 1986):

  • Stress reduction
  • Improved self-esteem

Improved self-efficacy

  • Better relationships

Increased energy

Let’s take a quick look at two of the most common benefits.

Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their capability to complete a specific task successfully (Lunenburg, 2011). Learning and practicing skills such as effective communication and conflict resolution are essential building blocks for self-efficacy. Successful conflict resolution skills in the workplace increase confidence, promoting the likelihood of future successes (Lunenburg, 2011).

Increased self-efficacy “influences the tasks employees choose to learn and the goals they set for themselves” (Lunenburg, 2011, p. 1). It also influences employees’ efforts and perseverance when taking on and learning new tasks (Lunenburg, 2011).

Sometimes you have to expend energy to gain energy. Conflict robs individuals and organizations of precious energy. Mastering conflict resolution skills takes energy initially but can save energy in the long run through reduced stress and improved relationships and productivity.

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To reap the benefits of resolving conflict, certain helpful skills must be applied, and there are many conflict resolution skills that are effective for the workplace.

Below are skills believed to be crucial for resolving conflict.

1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is described by Goleman (1995, p. 43) as “recognizing a feeling as it happens.” Goleman states that people with high self-awareness have moment-to-moment awareness and navigate life adeptly.

2. Self-control

Self-control is the ability to manage unruly impulses and emotions effectively. Because emotions play a central role in conflict, the ability to stay composed despite heightened emotions is essential to constructive resolution.

3. Assertive communication

Bolton (1986) describes assertive communication as a dynamic communication style in which the speaker maintains self-respect, expresses personal needs, and defends their own rights without abusing or dominating others.

While an aggressive communication style may shut down a conversation, assertiveness encourages dialogue. This skill takes practice and courage. Bolton (1986) asserts that less than 5% of the population communicates assertively.

4. Collaboration

According to Folger, Poole, and Stutman (2009), the goal of collaboration is to consider all the important needs of the primary parties and develop a solution that meets these needs.

5. Problem-solving

Problem-solving in relation to conflict resolution is a strategy that pursues alternative solutions that satisfy the needs and goals of the parties involved (Pruitt & Kim, 2004).

According to Sorensen (2017), empathy is the ability to share and understand the emotions and feelings of others. Our understanding of another person’s perspective can increase the likelihood of emotional connection and collaboration.

7. Listening

Active listening is one of the most underrated and underutilized conflict resolution skills. Listening during conflict achieves key goals, primarily putting an end to cyclical arguing and opening the door to empathy and understanding.

How to resolve conflict

The conflict resolution method

This simple, three-step formula for conflict resolution works well for conflicts involving values and intense emotions.

Step 1: Engage with the other respectfully

Respect is an attitude shown through specific behaviors, such as how you look at the other person, how you listen, your tone of voice, and word choices.

Step 2: Listen fully until you experience their side

The goal of listening in this manner is to understand the content of the other person’s ideas or contributions, what it means for them, and their feelings about it.

Step 3: Verbalize your feelings, views, and needs

Assertive communication works well in this stage. Some caveats accompany this stage of conflict resolution:

  • This step is not always necessary.
  • Make your statement brief.
  • Avoid loaded words.
  • Be truthful and concise.
  • Disclose your feelings.

Collaborative problem-solving

Bolton (1986) provides a six-step outline for collaboration when the issue is more about needs than emotions.

  • Define the primary needs surrounding the conflict.
  • Brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Choose solutions that meet the needs of both parties.
  • Create an agenda delineating who will assume each task.
  • Implement the plan.
  • Evaluate the solutions and reevaluate if needed.

The conflict resolution method and collaborative problem-solving are generalized approaches to conflict resolution when two or more parties are willing to work together on an issue.

Lipsky, Seeber, and Fincher (2003) provide approaches to work through issues that erupt in work settings.

1. The open door policy

This generalized philosophy is intended to show that management supports open dialogue and encourages staff to discuss differences that arise in the workplace. It is considered an initial step toward conflict resolution.

2. Ombudspersons

These are neutral or impartial managers who provide informal and confidential assistance to staff and management in order to resolve work-related disputes. Ombudspersons may wear a variety of hats, including mediator, fact-finder, consultant, and change agent.

3. Internal peer mediation

Some organizations call on designated employees as mediators to help resolve conflict. This method often addresses issues of a non-statutory nature, such as unfairness.

The success of this method rests on the careful selection of peer mediators based on their exemplary communication skills and abilities.

4. Professional mediators

Professional mediators are not connected with the organization in any way and function as independent, impartial, third parties who assist the primary parties through a formal mediation process.

Mediation is a viable option for creating structure to conflict resolution in an unbiased manner.

5. Peer review and employee appeals

This process is sometimes used by manufacturing organizations in an effort to avoid a union process. The underlying belief is that if at all possible, employee disputes should be resolved internally.

6. Executive panels

This method provides an opportunity for employees to present their claims to a panel of the organization’s senior executives, assuming they will be objective and sympathetic.

Using tools such as questionnaires, activities, and assessments can help employees work through conflict by adding insight and skills to the equation. Let’s look at some such tools.

Techniques for the workplace

2 Tools for groups

Often, people haven’t been taught the skills to discuss issues calmly and productively. The following worksheets can be used to provide structure to conflict.

Reviewing these worksheets before conflict erupts is a great opportunity to open a conversation and agree upon a conflict resolution process before matters spiral out of control.

The Remaining Calm During Conflict – I worksheet helps clients walk through conflict, providing tips on how to perceive conflict and deal with emotional reactions.

The Remaining Calm During Conflict – II worksheet encourages clients to journal about times when they did and did not remain calm during a workplace conflict.

2 Effective questionnaires

This self-assessment provided by CINERGY™ can be used to broaden the scope of awareness of ourselves and others, particularly during conflict. The assessment measures an individual’s current level of conflict intelligence.

This Conflict Management Styles Assessment , made available by the Blake Group, allows clients to uncover their primary conflict style and includes a description of the five conflict management styles.

A look at meditation for conflict resolution

This video provides an insightful awareness of our own habitual patterns and how these manifest in us and others during conflict.

Here is another recommended video that helps visualize how to prepare for conflict and build boundaries with others in a calm manner.

The Two Dollar Game

The Two Dollar Game was developed to help employees learn basic conflict styles and the art of negotiation in a fun, thoughtful way.

Conflict Description Template

This conflict management template created by the University of Iowa is intended to deal with conflict in a university setting but can easily apply to other teams or departments and used as an intuitive conflict mapping guide.

Coping With Stress in the Workplace Workbook by Ester Leutenberg and John Liptak

This workbook by Leutenberg and Liptak contains activities, assessments, journaling prompts, and educational handouts that can be photocopied and used to address conflict in the workplace.

Chapters contain resources about how to deal with workplace stress , different personalities, work habits, and relationships.

Online tools and resources for conflict resolution

The website Online Master of Legal Studies includes a wealth of Free Tools and Resources for Conflict Resolution . Some resources have been incorporated into this blog.

The wide variety of resources include a Cost of Conflict Calculator and tools to enhance cross-cultural communication.

Role-play activity

In this Assertive Message Role-Play , participants are presented with various workplace scenarios and encouraged to formulate assertive messages to initiate a discussion about the problem at hand.

1. People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts – Robert Bolton

People Skills

Some books are classics.

This one has been used for years to help guide individuals through the communication and conflict resolution process.

It’s a great resource for anyone interested in building robust interpersonal skills.

Find the book on Amazon .

2. The Big Book of Conflict Resolution Games: Quick, Effective Activities to Improve Communication, Trust and Collaboration – Mary Scannell

The Big Book of Conflict Resolution Games

This is a useful resource for incorporating activities and games to help employees listen to each other, engage productively, and create a culture of respect.

Topics include conflict, communication, diversity, trust, perspectives, emotional intelligence, and collaboration.

3. Emerging Systems for Managing Workplace Conflict – David Lipsky, Ronald Seeber, and Richard Fincher

Emerging Systems for Managing Workplace Conflict

The authors walk readers through the emergence of conflict in the workplace by creating dispute resolution systems for integration in a corporate setting.

This is a helpful resource for managers and corporate leaders interested in reducing the corporate costs of conflict.

4. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

Crucial Conversations Tools

Crucial Conversations is a New York Times bestseller that provides tools to traverse difficult and important conversations.

Ideas discussed in this book can help transform your career, organization, and community.

Readers learn how to listen and speak in ways that create safety and inclusion.

  • Assertive Communication This worksheet helps clients learn the difference between passive, aggressive, and assertive communication. Assertive communication is essential for expressing our needs and opinions, and defending our rights in a direct and respectful manner.
  • Active Listening Reflection Worksheet Use this worksheet to help clients sharpen listening skills essential for conflict resolution.

The worksheet reviews eight essential skills for active listening and includes a reflection exercise to evaluate which skills we use effectively and which can be strengthened.

  • Blindfold Guiding Exercise This exercise can be used as an icebreaker or as part of a  team-building exercise when members are struggling with trust issues.

Trust is a crucial element of team stability and is essential when conflict erupts. In this exercise, one person leads a blindfolded partner using simple statements. As trust builds, the duo can be instructed to speed up, slow down, or attempt to lead with silence.

  • Generating Alternative Solutions and Better Decision-Making This worksheet provides a map to work through problem-solving by considering three solutions to a specific issue accompanied by a discussion on the efficacy, do-ability, and effectiveness of the identified solution.
  • 17 Positive Communication Exercises If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others communicate better, check out this collection of 17 validated positive communication tools for practitioners . Use them to help others improve their communication skills and form deeper and more positive relationships.

Conflict divides. The effects of poorly handled conflict range from disruptive to destructive. It robs individuals and organizations of precious resources, such as energy, productivity, peace, and harmony.

Regardless of our station in life, we all still have lessons to learn.

Will we ever be free of conflict? Perhaps we can look at it another way. As we gain skills and experience successes resolving conflict, we can anticipate the next conflict and the next lesson, mindful of the potential wisdom and strengths we’ll gain in the process.

Are you facing an unresolved conflict at work or in your personal life? Try not to be discouraged; instead, think of it as your next life lesson waiting to be discovered.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Work & Career Coaching Exercises for free .

  • Arslan, C., Hamarta, E., & Usla, M. (2010). The relationship between conflict communication, self-esteem and life satisfaction in university students.  Educational Research and Reviews ,  5 (1), 31–34.
  • Bolton, R. (1986). People skills: How to assert yourself, listen to others, and resolve conflict . Touchstone.
  • Cloke, K. (2011). Untitled [Keynote Speaker]. In 24th Residential Institute – Winter 2011 . Nova Southeastern University.
  • Folger, J. P., Poole, M. S., & Stutman, R. K. (2009). Working through conflict: Strategies for relationships, groups, and organizations . Pearson Education.
  • Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ . Bantam Books.
  • Kauth, K. (2020, January). Cost of workplace conflict . Retrieved November 27, 2021, from
  • Leaf, C. (2008). Who switched off my brain? Controlling toxic thoughts and emotions . Thomas Nelson.
  • Leutenberg, E. R. A., & Liptak, J. J. (2014).  Coping with stress in the workplace workbook.  Whole Person Associates.
  • Lipsky, D. B., Seeber, R. L., & Fincher, R. D. (2003). Emerging systems for managing workplace conflict . Jossey-Bass.
  • Lunenburg, F. C. (2011). Self-efficacy in the workplace: Implications for motivation and performance. International Journal of Management, Business, and Administration , 14 (1), 1–6.
  • Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2011).  Crucial conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high  (2nd ed.). McGraw Hill.
  • Pruitt, D. G., & Kim, S. H. (2004). Social conflict: Escalation, stalemate, and settlement (3rd ed.). McGraw Hill.
  • Scannell, M. (2010).  The big book of conflict resolution games: Quick, effective activities to improve communication, trust and collaboration.  McGraw Hill.
  • Sexton, M., & Orchard, C. (2016). Understanding healthcare professionals’ self-efficacy to resolve interprofessional conflict. Journal of Interprofessional Care , 30 (3), 316–323.
  • Sorensen, M. S. (2017). I hear you: The surprisingly simple skill behind extraordinary relationships . Autumn Creek Press.
  • Wilmot, W., & Hocker, J. (2011). Interpersonal conflict (8th ed.). McGraw Hill.

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This type of thinking can be used in all areas of one's life. Some people refer to it as "thinking outside the box," or "brainstorming." Creative problem solving is all of these things and more. This method of thinking essentially allows individuals or groups to search for solutions, rather than create a stagnated situation by placing blame or getting stuck on irrelevant details; it allows everyone to move forward to reach positive results, rather than staying stuck inside the problem.

Often, when you are the one involved in a conflict, it is hard to be objective, so, stepping away from the situation and looking at it without intense emotions often helps you to see the resolution possibilities in a new light. It may also help to ask yourself what advice you would give someone else if it was them having this particular problem. While many people get stuck or frustrated when it comes to resolving their own conflicts, we are usually more rational and better able to find solutions when we are helping someone else. So, trick yourself into giving you great advice!

It is important to remember that we cannot change other people, only ourselves and circumstances. If friends or family members are inclined to being selfish, stubborn, or combative, and they have been this way as long as you have known them, then chances are that you are not going to change them. You will have to accept their flaws, and learn to work around them when trying to resolve conflict with them. Lastly, it helps to talk with an objective, trusted friend about any conflict situation; you could ask them how they would resolve the conflict. Below are the seven conflict examples followed by several creative ways of resolving them. Try to come up with one or two of your own as you think about each situation.

1. Two or more parties have differing or opposing agendas, goals, or desires.

Remember This Conflict?

You and your fiance have a date for the movies, you want to see the new romantic comedy, but he wants to see the newest shoot-um-up, action adventure flick. As you stand in line discussing which movie to see you realize that the last time you went to the movies together you compromised and saw the movie of his choice. Now you are beginning to feel a little angry. He should know that it is your turn; he should simply compromise this time as you did last time--right? But he continues to try and convince you to see his movie. You protest and remind him of your prior compromise, but this does nothing to change his mind. He begins to get angry and can't understand why you are being so stubborn. To avoid an embarrassing full-blown argument in the movie line, you give in again and agree to see the movie he wants to see.

Creative Resolutions:

A. This couple could decide on a "take-turns" policy. They could keep track of who picked the movie on a calendar, and this way, before they even leave for their date, they will know whose turn it is.

B. They could decide on a movie before they get to the theater by checking the schedules in advance. If they want to see different movies, they could invite another similarly minded couple so that if they want to split up, the guys can go to one movie, while the ladies go to another.

2. One party has something the other party wants or needs, but he or she will not comply.

You have a big interview but can't afford to purchase a good suit. You happen to know that your friend, who wears the same size, has a several great suits that he wears to work. You really need this job, so you politely ask if you can borrow one of his suits for the interview. He refuses. You explain that you really need this job and having a good appearance will help tremendously, he reiterates that he doesn't lend out his clothes to anyone, that he only has a few suits and he really can't spare one. You are upset by his lack of generosity and don't see what the big deal is, after all, he can't wear three suits at the same time, can he? He is annoyed that you won't take no for an answer and are refusing to understand his point of view; after all, he thinks, "Why don't you purchase your own darn suit, you're going to need something to wear to work if you get the job!

A. The person asking could offer to have the suit dry cleaned after he uses it.

B. The person asking could offer an equal exchange, or provide some needed favor or service to the lending person.

C. The person lending could set specific conditions that would put their mind at ease. For instance, if lending out your car, you could set a condition that if any damage is done, the person borrowing the car must promptly pay for any repairs and return the car in its original condition.

3. The personalities between two people creates tension.

Remember This Conflict:

You are with your sister at a cousin's engagement party. Whenever she is in big groups she tends to become very animated and loves to be the center of attention. This annoys you because she often makes you the brunt of her jokes to get a laugh from strangers and other family members. You see her in the ladies' room and comment angrily that you don't appreciate her making you her "straight-man." You tell her to knock it off and find another way of entertaining the crowd. She tells you that you are being too sensitive and that you are just jealous because she is getting all the attention. She goes back out to the party and continues to make you the brunt of her jokes. You are hurt and embarrassed by her jokes concerning your life, personal flaws, past boyfriends, etc. She is annoyed because she doesn't see the harm in making a few jokes about you--it's all in good fun.

A. The offended sister could speak to other family members and make them aware of how her sister's jokes make her feel, thus, they might not encourage the comedian when she makes her sister the focus of her comedy.

B. The comedic sister could change her routine a little by using the sister's good points and accomplishments and a little self-depreciating humor for material instead of using her flaws and mistakes.

4. Something significant in life or an ongoing relationship has changed.

A. The wife could cut back on her own hours at work so that she has more time to devote to home and family.

B. The wife could offer to increase her time at work, thereby supplementing the income lost by the husband's giving up his larger salary.

5. One person betrays the trust of another.

You confide to a close friend that you are having marital problems, and that you and your husband are considering a divorce. You don't want to make it "public" yet because you are not sure if divorce is imminent, and you don't want the children to know until the decision is concrete. She sympathizes and promises to tell no one. Two weeks later, your son comes home from school very upset and asks you if you and your husband are getting a divorce! You inquire how he heard about this and he tells you that his best friend (your close friend's son) told him he overheard his parents talking about it the night before. You sit down and explain to your son that you and his father have been having some problems, but that you are trying to work things out. You assure him that if you decide to get divorced that you will sit down and discuss it with him and his sister first. Then you get on the phone to call your "friend," and give her a piece of your mind. She betrayed your trust, she promised not to tell anyone about your secret. She counters that it was purely accidental; she thought that her son had gone to bed when she was talking to her husband about it and realized, too late, that he was snooping in the hallway. She told her son to keep it to himself, but "you know how kids are." You tell her that she wasn't supposed to tell anyone--not even her husband. She counters that she tells her husband everything and that he really doesn't "count;" it's not as if she told mutual friends, or the mail person. She apologizes, but feels that your son finding out was simply an accident.

A. The confider and her husband could have sat down with their children and made them aware that they were having some problems, and explain that they were trying to work them out before she confided in anyone else.

B. The confider and her husband could seek marriage counseling to help them through their decision. This would provide an objective third person to confide in, rather than friends or neighbors, who may not be equipped to handle such news.

6. One person creates conflict by saying or doing something thoughtless or irresponsible.

You have to work late two days a week at your new job and your husband doesn't get home until after six at night. You need a sitter to walk your two children home from school and care for them for a few hours, or until you get home from work. A retired neighbor, who you know well, offers to take the job for a reasonable rate and you tell her that you will talk to your husband and get back to her with a decision in the morning. That night, your older brother asks you to give the job to his 15-year-old daughter. She needs to learn some responsibility, earn some extra money, and she would love to do it, plus they live close by and it would be simple for her to walk your kids home from school. You agree with his request, thank your neighbor and tell her that your niece will be taking the job. You hire your niece to babysit two times a week, after school for three hours. For the first two weeks, things go smoothly. Your niece is doing a great job, the kids love her, and she's happy to be earning some extra spending money. On the third week, your niece asks if she can bring her boyfriend along with her to baby-sit, and you agree that this is fine as long as she takes good care of the children. When you get home you see that the house is a total mess, the kids are still in their school clothes, and they tell you that they haven't had anything to eat since lunch, except potato chips and soda. Your niece is sitting on the living room sofa watching a movie with her boyfriend, totally oblivious to the situation at hand. You speak to your niece privately and tell her that you don't think it's appropriate for her to bring her boyfriend along again and you explain why. You tell her you are only going to pay her half of what you usually pay her, because she only did half the job she was supposed to. She quietly agrees, but when she gets home she tells her father that you treated her unfairly and did not pay you. Your brother calls and tells you that he thinks you acted unfairly with his daughter and that she won't be babysitting for you any longer. You are very angry and frustrated by your niece's behavior and your brother's one sided opinion on the subject. Your niece feels that you agreed to let her boyfriend come over, and that she was being responsible by asking; she is upset that she didn't get paid. Your brother, not having the full story, and being somewhat biased in his daughter's favor, feels that you slighted his daughter. You call your neighbor to see if she is still available, but she is not. You now have no sitter, and are in a conflict with your brother and niece, caused by your niece's irresponsible behavior.

Resolution to Conflict 6:

A. The aunt could have paid the niece her full salary, and made a "no company" policy for the future.

B. The aunt could make her brother aware of the situation and then find another sitter through an ad in the local paper, or through word of mouth from friends or neighbors.

7. One person's needs in the relationship are not being met and the other party refuses to acknowledge this lack, or do anything about It.

Your good friend's long-time boyfriend has recently broken up with her, and she is very upset over this. She really thought he was "the one." She has been talking about it to you constantly in her efforts to get over her pain and sadness. She calls you nearly every day, and comes to your apartment often to hang out and have dinner. You do your best to be there for her and listen to her frustrations, sometimes you are on the phone with her for hours discussing this one situation. A month later, you find out that your mother is ill. She needs to have surgery and you are very worried about her. You call your friend to confide in her, but she is out on a date and tells you she'll call you back later. She calls you when she gets home, and you tell her about your mother; she listens for a few minutes, tells you how sad she is for you, but then changes the subject and starts talking about her date. You try to talk about your feelings concerning your mother again, and she abruptly tells you that she has to go, she has an early morning at work, and she is really tired. She promises to call you tomorrow. You hang up and are left feeling that the friendship with this person is inequitable. When she needed a shoulder to cry on, you listened and made time in your busy schedule to be there for her, but when you needed her to listen to you, she is suddenly "busy." You realize that her needs are being met in this relationship but yours are not. A conflict has occurred in this relationship.

Resolution to Conflict 7:

A. Friend A could let this instance go and talk to someone else about the concerns she has for her mother. She could wait and see if the inequity issue comes up again in the future with the first friend before considering it a conflict.

B. Friend A could be very straight forward and say, "I really need to talk about my mother's illness; I'm really worried and I need your input." Some people just need direct requests and are not good at subtleties.

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