Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation

5 Strategies for Conflict Resolution

When conflicts arise, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae and get carried away by emotion. To effectively resolve conflict, someone needs to know how to take a step back and consciously implement strategies that allow the group to get to the core of the issue and find a path forward. Here are five conflict resolution strategies to help you reach a consensus.

Listen
When one or more people don’t feel that they’ve been heard, conflict is often the result. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make toward a resolution simply by ensuring that each party truly feels they’ve been listened to and understood. Take the time to talk to everyone separately, and focus on listening with no interruptions.

Acknowledge
Professionals in fields from customer service to psychology understand the healing power of acknowledgement. Once you’ve listened to each party’s concerns, restate them to ensure you’ve understood correctly, by saying something like, “What I’m hearing is that you’re concerned that the current plan won’t meet your needs.” When the other party agrees, validate their feelings by saying something like, “I can understand why that would be frustrating. Let’s see what we can do to make sure your needs are met.” This kind of emotional validation often leads to a lowering of defenses and increased goodwill.

Establish Ground Rules
Before you start hashing out the details of the conflict and possible solutions, everyone should agree to common ground rules. This step ensures that everyone involved has the same expectations and feels assured that the process will be fair. Be clear that bad behavior or disrespectful communication will not be tolerated. Make sure everyone gets equal time, so more assertive personalities don’t drown out quieter voices. Let everyone know who will be making the final decision.

Focus on Communication
Often, the simplest route to a resolution is to get everyone together in the same room. When that’s not possible, or if one or more people involved tend to have a hot temper, written communication may be preferable. Don’t let geography be an obstacle; take advantage of technological solutions like video conferencing and online meeting services to facilitate face-to-face interaction, even when people are spread out in different locations.

Commit to a Solution
One way to increase the likelihood of a lasting solution is to give everyone an opportunity to propose possible resolutions once all the issues have been heard and discussed. This helps build consensus, and gives people a sense of ownership over whatever solution is reached. Once a decision has been made, give everyone a chance to ask questions so everyone walks away with a mutual understanding of what’s been decided. Finally, make it clear that the solution is final and binding, so no one will be tempted to rehash the argument and undo your hard work.

Set yourself up for success by using a strategic, step-by-step approach for conflict resolution. By following the approach outlined above, you’ll save time, minimize unnecessary drama, and reduce the likelihood of a similar conflict arising in the future.