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20 Conflict Resolution Skills for Work, Relationships, and More

Conflict is a normal, healthy, and inevitable part of a relationship. It is impossible for two people to agree on everything all the time.

conflict resolution

In McLean’s (2005) definition of conflict, it is a physical or psychological struggle caused by the perception of opposing or incompatible goals, desires, demands, wants, or needs. In simple words, differences lead to conflict. Conflict arises when people disagree with each other about their ideas, values, goals, perceptions, and motivations. In many cases, these differences seem trivial, but at their core are deeply personal and relational needs, such as a desire to feel safe and secure, a desire to feel respected and valued, or a desire to feel close to another person.

There will always be conflict, and it typically arises because of opposing interests, a shortage of resources, or interference, but conflict does not necessarily break a relationship between parties in conflict. Every relationship moves from conflict to collaboration. Conflict is not always bad, and can bring out the best in you; it is how we handle conflict that matters. Instead of viewing conflict as entirely negative, we should see it as a chance to clarify, learn, grow, and reinforce our relationship. If you learn to deal with conflicts constructively (and not destructively), your relationships will benefit tremendously!

Conflict occurs whenever people communicate. Communicators who have the ability to predict and anticipate conflict can formulate strategies to solve it successfully. The way you deal with conflict makes a difference in how it gets resolved.

Conflict resolution often requires reading both verbal and nonverbal communication cues, maintaining calm and control of your own emotions, and understanding the position of the opposing party. As conflict is inevitable in relationships, it is important to learn how to handle it in a healthy way. By developing the skills for effective conflict resolution and strategies, you can maintain strong and growing relationships in your personal and professional life.

In this article, we will discuss effective conflict resolution skills and strategies for work, relationships, and beyond.

Conflict Resolution Fundamentals: What You Need To Know

Conflict resolution is defined as the process of problem-solving between opposing viewpoints so that conflict can be resolved. You might think that conflict resolution is straightforward-if there’s a problem, just talk about it, right? Well, that’s not always the case. The truth is sometimes we lose sight of the root of the issue during conversations that derail from misconstrued feelings, projections, assumptions, or needs. This is where conflict resolution comes in. 

In order to become an effective conflict resolver, you must first identify your differences and similarities with regard to conflict. An understanding of these perspectives will help you make better decisions about how to handle conflicts in work, relationships, or other contexts where they occur.

Despite this fact, many people ignore it because they do not understand why their ideas shouldn’t clash onstage during a disagreement. Even without resolving the conflict itself, there are many essential principles to consider regarding how you can approach others’ ideas so that they have a better understanding of your beliefs.

While it may be tempting to ignore the topic altogether when speaking with co-workers about an upcoming job opportunity or meeting with bosses pertaining to promotion opportunities for employees, pursuing these issues is among the most crucial tasks in life – especially if dealing successfully will improve your emotional or physical well -being. Many life events are resolved by conflict – family conflicts, workplace disagreements, marital problems, and clinical evaluations are all examples of areas that require effective problem-solving in order to resolve issues without the risk of becoming emotionally exhausted.

In certain situations some conflicts can be avoided altogether (for example: when children fight over toys or kids bring others into their arguments), many smaller differences must be reconciled if you want your relationship with co-workers or bosses to thrive. Many people are aware that disagreements can occur, but they do not understand how to plan for them once the discussion has begun. As an effective conductor or manager, you must be able to resolve small issues, even when others might argue over larger ones.

Through understanding both ideas is required in order to have empathic conversations with those who differ from you greatly – this isn’t always easy because it takes effort on your part as well as theirs.

Key Symptoms and behaviors of conflict that need resolution at the workplace

You may notice your coworkers or employees exhibit some of the following behaviors that indicate unresolved conflict: 

  • Ineffective work performance
  • Not making eye contact
  • Rude or Offensive comments
  • Having meetings called off or avoided, such as 1:1 meetings regularly scheduled
  • Keeping people or departments apart
  • Not often smiling
  • Unusual body language (such as standing or sitting with back to others or crossing arms)
  • When they are usually enthusiastic or involved in meetings, there is silence and disengagement
  • A reaction or statement that is surprising or out of character

An organization should put in place plans immediately when it comes to this type of behavior, especially if the human resources department is involved. It is important not to create a hostile workplace or worsen the company culture.

Key Symptoms and behaviors of conflict that need resolution in relationships

Arguments recur when one or both parties are not resolving conflict effectively. However, when you and/or your partner avoid conflict, the tension becomes more subtle. 

The following are a few other signs of conflict that can help you determine when it’s time to start resolving the issue:

  • Conflict often arises.
  • Anger about the same issue arises.
  • Certain topics feel extremely tense during conversations.
  • Using humor to convey feelings about the issue.
  • Having trouble discussing the topic calmly or quickly shutting down.         
  • Affecting your mental health and/or relationship.         
  • Other areas of your life are affected by the unresolved issue.
  • Getting over a conflict with your partner takes a long time.         
  • Only discussing certain topics while drunk.

The truth is that abusive behavior should always be avoided in a conflict situation, regardless of the difficulty of determining someone’s personal limits or boundaries. Including physical violations, psychological manipulation, intimidation, and escalating verbal conflict characterized by excessive name-calling, humiliation, and threats.

4 Key Conflict Resolution Skills

Successful conflict resolution depends on four fundamental skills. When these four skills are combined, they form a fifth skill that is greater than the sum of its parts: the ability to handle conflict and resolve differences in ways that build trust and confidence. 

1.Reduce stress quickly

A crucial aspect of conflict resolution is the ability to maintain calm and focus in a tense situation. When facing difficult situations, you may become emotionally overwhelmed if you don’t know how to stay calm and in control. This is why it’s important to learn and use techniques that can help you feel calm.

Thomas A. Harris, J.D., LMSW, a psychotherapist in private practice says: “It doesn’t matter how far out of control you are when selecting candidates for conflict resolution skills training if they don’t know how to handle stress well.” Unfortunately, many people come to us with unresolved conflict issues because the stress level was too high. Having conducted many personal training sessions, I strongly believe that 80 to 90 percent of the issue arises from a lack of experience in managing emotions. The stress levels normally increase by 7 to 10 times during an argument or conflict situation. So if your only thought pattern is “fight! fight!” you may find it very difficult to remain calm and focused on achieving win-win solutions under high-pressure situations.

It is best to relieve stress using the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. You must find things that soothe you since everyone responds differently to sensory input.

2. Know and understand your emotions

You can only understand yourself and others when you are aware of your emotions. You cannot communicate effectively or smooth over disagreements if you don’t know how or why you feel. Knowing your own feelings may seem trivial, however, many people try to suppress or ignore strong emotions such as anger, fear, or sadness. But understanding these emotions helps you manage conflict. You won’t be able to face and resolve differences if you’re afraid of strong emotions or insist on finding only logical solutions.

3. Understand and develop nonverbal communication skills

Nonverbal communication is often the most important form of information exchanged during conflicts and arguments. There are many ways to communicate non verbally, including eye contact, facial expression, voice tone, posture, and touch. You may be able to learn what the other person is telling you by paying attention to the nonverbal signals they are giving you, responding in a way that builds trust, and getting to the core of the issue. A reassuring touch, a calm tone of voice, or even a concerned expression can defuse a heated discussion.

4. Deal with problems with humor and play.

A playful or humorous approach to communication can prevent many confrontations and resolve arguments and disagreements. Humor makes it easier to say things that would otherwise be difficult to say without creating a fuss. But be sure you’re laughing with the other person, not at them. Humor can reduce tension and anger, re-frame problems, and put situations into perspective, which can actually lead to deeper connection and intimacy in a relationship.

13 Conflict Resolution Strategies: How to manage conflicts effectively in the workplace

Here’s a list of 16 conflict resolution strategies you can try with your team if you’re not sure how to resolve conflict in work:

1. Pick the right strategy

Conflict resolution strategies can be applied to any situation at any time. It is completely up to you how and when to employ conflict resolution strategies.

If the issue at hand isn’t as important as you thought it was, then it would be reasonable to use an accommodating strategy to resolve it. However, when it comes to more important issues, it may be necessary to take a firmer stance to achieve desired results

2. Meet in a private, comfortable place to discuss the conflict

The presence of conflict and the process of resolving it can both be distracting. Go to a private place to work on the problem. Seating in a conflict resolution session should be equal for all participants. Make sure there is water available during the discussion.

3. Avoid being defensive 

When our backs are against the wall, we all become defensive. As a result, we are unable to see or understand what others are saying. 

All parties have an interest in trying to grow the opposing party’s mindset. Close-downs prevent a conflict from progressing toward a resolution, even if you don’t agree with their viewpoint.

When a volatile situation arises, put yourself in another’s shoes and see the world through his or her eyes. Try to understand the reasons behind another’s argument, even if you don’t have to. Don’t just say “no,” but rather try to understand what the other side is saying.

It is an opportunity to observe from another perspective.

4. Be a good listener

Successful communication begins with active listening.

Team conflict can be resolved with active listening. Understanding someone’s underlying concern is crucial. Although we’re accustomed to talking about our own issues, it’s hard to listen to others on the same issue. Additionally, managers who want to resolve conflicts quickly might find it natural to do all the talking. 

However, it is much more beneficial to allow others the opportunity to express themselves without interruption. Make sure everyone is given their fair share of the spotlight, then really listen to what they have to say. 

This could help to drive collaborative problem-solving by opening your eyes to a new perspective.

Active listening is an essential skill coaches use to be truly present for their clients. 

Working with an opposition requires listening closely and being able to mirror and restate the other party’s view. Being able to understand another’s objectives can help you find a quicker solution. Moreover, active listening reduces the chances of misunderstandings and misalignment.

5. Keep a humble attitude

In an argument, you can still be wrong even if your position is the strongest. Be humble. You can try to use the other person’s concerns against him or her. For example, they might think that you’re trying to trick them into believing something. Or perhaps they see your argument as a trap and refuse any compromise proposals coming from you.

Righteousness is not an option when it comes to conflict resolution; instead of arguing about what we believe is right we need only consider whether our goals are aligned with those of others in the conversation.

Honest agreements are not always easy to come by, but you might be surprised at how much more productive your negotiations will become once both parties let go of their egos and anger.

Don’t underestimate the importance of being quiet when listening too closely to someone else’s message. Making certain that each party feels heard through soft audio cues is important in the early stages to avoid posturing over personality differences . If it looks like one party is lording over the other, this might cause an unhealthy atmosphere which could lead to arguments and unnecessary tension.

Therefore, humble leaders don’t apply a competitive strategy to dealing with others. Rather than imposing their agenda, they listen to others’ views. The best part is that they are always open to feedback, even if it concerns their conflict management skills.

6. Never take things personally

Your opinions don’t represent you. Leadership matures when they realize that arguments are not about them personally, but about the issues. The good news is that by following this credo, they will never be seen as toxic or manipulative.

It will be difficult to compromise constructively when an argument is attached to your ego. Detaching yourself from the situation will help you depersonalize it and resolve it faster. Some leaders will disregard all guidelines related to this topic. They remind themselves that their work is the thing most important, and everything else they come into contact with shouldn’t be treated as personal or significant. Although there might seem to be resistance especially after hearing “personal” in this context, caring less about your ego can make you a better leader for greater results!

7. Stay calm

Angry people have a difficult time resolving conflicts. Leadership issues make this worse. 

Stay calm at all times so that you can properly communicate with your team and with those who disagree with you.

When you’re preparing for an argument, it’s perfectly okay to show anger emotions. But never when you’re in the middle of it. When you’re trying to remain impartial, you need to be aware of your own emotions.

To reach a solution that benefits both parties, you need to remain calm before any meeting to resolve a conflict. Great managers have the emotional intelligence to keep their emotions under control.

8. Pay attention to non-verbal cues

The act of resisting can take many forms in a conflict situation, including raising voices and shouting. But nonverbal communication is just as crucial. People always express themselves physically in some way, whether they’re engaging in an argument or sitting next to each other.

The majority of nonverbal communication is not verbalized directly—we can often read someone’s thoughts by their face and body language . Keeping this fact (and the topics discussed) fully in mind assists you better understand what others are feeling without having to make explicit statements about it. This is particularly important when there isn’t any room for misunderstanding, confusion or misinterpretation.

Even subtle nonverbal cues and body language can reveal a lot about what is really going on. 

An introvert or someone who isn’t used to dealing with conflict directly may find this particularly challenging. Understanding people’s body language and recognizing when their words do not match their actions is essential to driving a dispute to resolution.

9. Be willing to compromise

You can learn a variety of conflict resolution skills if you put in the time and effort.

However, your ultimate goal in any conflict is to reach a mutually beneficial agreement between both parties. A collective solution sometimes requires putting aside personal goals and egos.

When both parties display a commitment to solving the problem, deadlocks can be solved early and quickly.

10. Be patient

Conflict is something that cannot be avoided. In fact, managing conflicts is even more important when we want them resolved quickly.

Yet lasting solutions can take time, especially if both sides are serious about their argument. It may result in a tenuous agreement if you rush to a conclusion.

Listen to all arguments, cultivate patience, and you’ll likely reach a timely resolution.

11. Be impartial so you don’t split up and fail

A biased or partial approach to the issue will not solve the problem – it might even make it worse.

Don’t accuse anyone before you hear all sides out. Examine both sides of the conflict objectively. Try not to be influenced by the personal aspects of individuals involved.

12. Always remain positive

Interpersonal conflict makes it easy for people involved to slip into their lowest emotional states. 

If someone is raising their voice or becoming negative, try cutting them off before they escalate. Take control of the conversation by changing the conversation to a more positive one.

You want to find a solution that benefits both parties. Remind every party involved that you’re trying to resolve the issue. Stay positive to maintain an open and accepting environment. As a result, the conversation will not devolve into an argument.

13. Understand when to walk away

If you are in conflict with someone, do they not listen to you? Are they unwilling to see your perspective? Is their only concern winning? At all costs, do they avoid talking to you? 

You can walk away from the conflict if you’ve tried to resolve it several times but the other person doesn’t respond. This does not mean that you are giving up. To resolve conflicts successfully, two open-minded people must listen to each other and be willing to learn. 

You may need to seek an HR professional or outside mediator if walking away is not possible. For example, if this person is your superior or someone you work closely with. Having a third party who is capable of investigating and guiding resolution can help identify each person’s responsibilities. 

A mediator can also provide preventative conflict resolution strategies for the future, as well as helping you hold each other accountable during resolution.

7 Conflict Resolution Strategies For Relationships: How to manage conflicts effectively in relationships

Amelia Flynn, LMFT (Marriage and Family Therapist) points out that conflict resolution also involves managing endless problems in romantic relationships. Because renowned relationship researchers John Gottman, Ph.D., and Julie Gottman, Ph.D., found that almost 70% of marital conflict is caused by perpetual, insurmountable problems. 

Rather than a conventional solution, the solution lies in managing the problem or dispute. Here are some strategies to solve the conflict in relationships:

1. Know your emotions

A healthy conflict resolution requires the ability to manage yourself and your emotions, says Flynn. We often find this difficult when conflicts trigger strong emotions that we cannot control or understand. 

Rather than relying solely on facts, we respond to conflict subjectively, she says, noting that our values and cultures also influence our responses. A counseling session can be a great opportunity for you to better understand how your past experiences and background are contributing to the way you deal with conflict. 

The first step towards resolving conflicts with others is to learn about yourself. Sometimes conflicts come up because we recreate patterns of behavior from our childhood. Our expectations are often the result of unmet past needs, and sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

2. Self-soothing can be beneficial

Conflict can be effectively managed by being comfortable with the inevitable discomfort that is inevitable. As you learn how to handle stress and self-soothe in times of conflict, you will increase your ability to push through in a productive way and enhance your self-control.

3. Complain without criticizing

According to Linda Carroll, M.S., LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, communicating about an issue can sometimes turn into criticism. 

For instance, you might mean to say, “I’d appreciate your help more often,” but you actually say, “Can you stop being lazy once in a while?” 

Typically, criticisms are attacks on someone’s character, whereas complaints are requests for change in behavior. Complaints are descriptive and specific, avoiding words like always and never.

Your partner is more likely to remain open to working together as a result of this open-minded and blameless communication.

4. Don’t try to prove yourself right

Resolution is not about being right or wrong. A good strategy involves sacrificing and compromising some wants to find the best solution. Every relationship is a team effort. Always remember that the team is what matters, not just you.

5. Be respectful of each other

During tense or angry moments, when you and your partner aren’t hearing each other, you may feel so strongly about your issue that you overlook theirs and resort to immature tactics. 

A healthy communication style and a healthy conflict resolution process require mutual respect. When I show respect to you, I value your thoughts and equity in this relationship, even when it is difficult to do so, and this will enable us to reconcile more easily.

6. Establish an open communication environment

When you and your partner can’t see eye to eye in a conflict, it can be hard to access emotions that foster safety—such as vulnerability, compassion, and empathy. But they’re essential if you want to resolve conflict in a way that you both feel heard and seen. 

Creating a friendly, safe space that fosters open communication can be as easy as following these steps:

  • Pay attention to your emotions and your body language.         
  • Don’t rush the reconciliation process and ask your partner when it’s the right time.
  • Reassure your partner that you are committed to working together while maintaining a balanced tone and approach.         
  • Just as you want your partner to be open to your point of view, be open to theirs.
  • Pay attention to your partner’s complaints. Your partner deserves to know that you understand and value their perspective.

7. Acknowledge your responsibility

Hurting the people we love is awful. The bigger problem is not taking responsibility for your mistakes, which is a crucial skill for conflict resolution. Be honest about your mistakes and think about how you contributed to the conflict. 

“Even if you think you were only responsible for 2% of the pain you caused, apologize for your part in what happened,” says couples’ counselor and sex therapist Deborah J. Fox, MSW.

Fox advises being genuine and vulnerable when making an apology to your partner, and that “a truly sincere apology does not require a reason.”

Now, what is the difference between conflict resolution skills and conflict management skills?

The difference between conflict resolution skill and conflict management skills are that managing conflicts does not help in resolving actual conflict.

Usually, when one undergoes or handles conflict badly, the situation only gets worse after that victim often blames others for their behavior and suffers self-doubt within themselves.

No matter how well-intentioned they may be personally in reducing tensions among colleagues, avoiding dispute resolution in the workplace is counterproductive to performance improvement, and thus negatively impacts productivity levels.

So, conflict resolution skills help a great deal in resolving conflicts. Conflict management skills do not only limit the escalation of conflict but also helps in reducing tension levels among others and prompt them to look at possible solutions for themselves. They make sure that proper time is spent with people even though they may be emotionally involved in what you are up to or when you might have been done something wrong – just take it as normal conversational role play otherwise there might be damaged relationship between mutually understanding individuals.

The bottom line

Learning resolution requires time, patience, and realistic expectations, so be kind to you and to the other person. In relationships, there are always going to be conflicts, but you can find healing and peace if you work on yourself as well as your projections and insecurities and learn how to communicate effectively.

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