5 Conflict Resolution Strategies That are Proven to Work

Whether you work in an office, a shop, or outdoors, regardless of if your co-workers comprise an entire team or just another individual, conflict can pop up at any time, at any place, and with any person. Meanings are misunderstood, and a never-ending back and forth ensues. While disagreements are not something you can avoid altogether, there are ways they can be better handled.

Because these situations can arise at the most inopportune moments, we need to develop tools to handle them confidently, calmly, and cleanly. Diffusing tension and developing conflict resolution strategies are huge parts of being a leader in the workplace. And despite what people may think, being a leader is something you can do if you are a supervisor or an entry-level employee.

 In this article, we will give you five of the top conflict resolution strategies and why they are effective.

Conflict Resolution Strategies – Plan of Action

1. Pause and Decide on Your Next Steps

You’re in that moment when someone has sent a barely concealed insult hurtling your way. You can feel your blood pressure building, your breath speeding up as the adrenaline starts to flow, and a quick retort prepares itself on your lips.

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Reacting with disparaging remarks, condescending tones, or even threats, will do nothing other than add fuel to the fire of your conflict. Jumping the gun and firing back at a person is the worst thing you can do when faced with a tense situation. The parties involved are on edge to begin with, so your word choice is of the utmost importance.

How you respond can decide if their walls get higher or, if you can draw them out of that defensive state of mind.

Put It into Action

To resolve this, the best thing you can do is to take a deep breath, count down from ten if you need to, and take those moments to think of a neutral response. When in doubt, keep in mind the old saying, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Here’s an example of a reaction versus a response:

Statement: You completely botched this entire report!
Reaction: Are you kidding? I’ve seen the work you turn in!
Response: I’m sorry you feel that way. How could I have done this differently?

2. Decide What Medium Will Work Best

Consider how this conflict started. Did it begin with misread text messages? Did someone put off a tone that rubbed you the wrong way? Did body language distort the proper delivery of what the person was trying to say? However the situation arose, it is wise to contemplate the options for effective communication.

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Put It into Action

If face-to-face interactions are becoming too heated, maybe it would be best to continue over email when responses can be thought out and revised before sending. If written messages are being misread and misconstrued, it might be time to take the conversation to an open dialog at a coffee shop or in the conference room. Sometimes people need to see your expression and hear the inflections in your voice to comprehend better.

Evaluating the best ways to communicate with the other party is a huge factor in conflict resolution strategies.

Here’s an example: “I don’t think I’m grasping what you’re saying correctly. Is there a time we could meet so I can fully understand where you are coming from?”

3. Open Up Communication for All

One of the most common reasons people lash out during conversations is because they feel misunderstood or ignored. This can be handled by ensuring that everyone gets a voice at the table, whether that table is real or hypothetical.

Put It into Action

When creating an environment of open communication, it is important to reinforce that all parties are being heard. Begin the conversation by giving everyone a chance to share their feelings, thoughts, and opinions on the conflict without interrupting, making faces or noises that could be perceived as a judgment, or disregarding what they are trying to communicate.

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If the tensions spark again, have everyone take a step back until they can resume with calmness. If there is one person who continuously stirs the pot with their inability to let others speak, you may have to request they be removed from the conversation. Open communication is crucial to a functioning team.

Below is an example of starting an open dialogue:
“We’re all here to discuss the client meeting last Thursday. I think we should go around the room and give everyone a chance to air their thoughts on the matter before we dive into the issue.”

4. Listen and Show Your Understanding

As briefly mentioned in the above paragraph, it is essential that everyone feels heard. But going even further than that, ensure that the individual talking feels understood. Taking the time to discern what is being said show the other person respect and makes them feel as though you truly value their words.

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This is especially important because while a person may air their feelings and thoughts if they are not acknowledged, the conflict could end up in the same place it started, if not worse than when it began. Understanding gives all parties involved a chance to grasp what the other is saying. It could be that they are saying the same thing you are, just in a different way.

Put It into Action

To really listen during conflict resolution, you have to turn off your responses, not just out loud, but in your head as well.

Often, when we hear what someone is saying, we are too busy planning a reply to fully comprehend what they are trying to communicate. Instead of thinking about your next chance to talk and insert your thoughts, listen intently. Focus on what is being said.

To take that understanding further, practice repeating back what you heard them say. Once again, it is possible that you are saying the same things, but in your own “language.” If you repeat back what you heard, and that’s not what was said, stay calm and try again.

Here’s an example of clarifying what you heard: “Those are all fantastic points. So what I’m hearing is that you think we should cut back to working on one project together, rather than two separately, is that correct?”

5. Close Out the Conversation

In a perfect world, your conflict will be resolved efficiently and calmly, using the aforementioned conflict resolution strategies. But in case that does not happen, be okay with just walking away and agreeing to disagree.

five people teaming up together by joining hands

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This does not mean stomping away in a huff or slamming doors. Being able to end a conversation that is only going in circles with grace and maturity will cut off the disagreement. If none of the individuals involved can come to a compromise, it is best to stop and work together despite differences that will not budge.

Put It into Action

Whether the dialog ended on a high note, a mutual understanding, or even if it ended with tempers still running hot, follow up with a note, a phone call, or stopping them in the hall to let them you know you appreciated their efforts in coming to an agreement.

They may not handle it well, they may even come back with anger or resentment, but that is okay. Putting in the effort can make all the difference to some.

Here’s an example of following up: “Hey, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to discuss some of the problems with last week’s meeting. Your opinions are valuable, and I’m glad we got the chance to hear them.”

Conclusion

Conflicts can be awkward, frustrating, and upsetting, but they don’t have to ruin your day or your relationships. Choosing to respond rather than react is key in conflict resolution strategies.

To Recap:

  • Pause and take a moment to evaluate your words, whether that’s closing your eyes for a few seconds or waiting to hit the “send” button.
  • Decide on the best forms of communication for the type of disagreement you are faced with.
  • Give everyone a chance to be heard without fear of judgment or dismissal.
  • Listen without thinking about what to say when it’s your turn to talk. Comprehend what is being said by repeating what you heard and asking for clarification.
  • Follow up with the other party to clear the air. Even if this doesn’t work, put forth the effort; it may be appreciated later.

You cannot expect the other person to know these conflict resolution strategies; you could be sorely disappointed. Instead, take the horse by the reins and steer the conversation with maturity and clarity. Remember to take that deep breath if you feel your emotions rising and understand that everyone has something they want to be heard.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Keep your ‘house’ standing by putting these conflict resolution strategies into action. You have the power to create an open and enjoyable environment for everyone.

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