Are you in the middle of a dispute – personal or professional?
Be aware that if your main goal is to win, blame or change the other party, the conflict will probably escalate, no matter what skills you use. Only begin a conversation about a conflict if you are truly open to learning something new and to problem-solving.
The irony of resolving conflicts or disputes is that the greatest leverage for change comes from listening to and understanding the other person’s point of view, NOT from convincing them you are right. When people feel listened to, they are more likely to try to understand you and your stance.
The following eleven helpful tips for resolving conflict are adapted from a list prepared by the King County Dispute Resolution Center.
- Step back and slow down.
Plan what you want to say to avoid saying something that will escalate the conflict.
- Be clear about your intentions and goals for the conversation.
- Listen first to understand. Then ask questions to explore the other person’s story.
- Express strong feelings without blame.
Using “I-statements,” express your own feelings (as opposed to judging the other). Describe the other party’s behavior without evaluating it. Be honest, but do not blame.
- Avoid becoming defensive, by avoiding an all or nothing, black or white, view of yourself.
Greater nuance helps you become more open to feedback.
- Take responsibility for your assumptions.
Let go of your “absolute truth” interpretation, sharing instead what you see as raw data and your thought process in reaching the conclusion you did. When others speak about their conclusions, ask how they came to those conclusions.
- Find common ground.
Be sure to note areas of agreement as well as areas of disagreement. This is crucial for reducing defensive reactions.
- Explore what is most important to the other person.
Be curious! Listen and ask questions. Help the other person verbalize what s/he really wants, rather than the one solution (theirs) they have come armed with.
- Let go of the myths about conflict.
Conflict need not be competitive or negative. Think of it more as a way to arrive at a mutually satisfactory resolution.
- Initiate a conversation about a conflict from a place of good will.
Tell the other partner that a conversation is important to you to maintain a good relationship. Allow them to save face.
- Be open to learning new information and to changing your perceptions and interpretations.
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