Conflict is simply the divergence of beliefs, opinions, needs or values between two or more people. It is neither good nor bad. Depending on how we choose to address it, conflict can be a wonderful opportunity to learn more about each other and find new and exciting ways of doing things, or it can lead to catastrophic damage to relationships and opportunities alike.

Given the circumstantial and contextual uniqueness of each conflict situation, there really is no single approach that will resolve all conflicts. However, there are some strategies that will consistently improve the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Actually listen to each other.

When someone takes a position that is contrary to ours, we are likely to perceive a threat and respond emotionally. This “trigger” can start us down the path to confrontation and worse. Instead, when triggered ask yourself what it is that is threatening about this person’s position? You’ll likely discover that it’s not a mortal threat at all, and it will give you some insight into yourself.

Invite and allow them to fully share not only their point of view by why they feel the way they do. It’s the “why” that is most important to know. You should also expect them to give you the same opportunity to express your position as well as your reasoning.

The goal here is for everyone to understand what is most important to themselves and everyone else in this situation. The path forward is found in this knowledge.

Avoid judging others.

It is very common for us to attach the choices and behaviors of others to their personality, rather than circumstances. For example, we might think that “Joan is a difficult person to deal with”. When it comes to our choices and behaviors however, we link it to external factors. “I don’t want to do this because it’s unsafe”. Separate the people from the problem and focus on what is driving their positions. We don’t do things for no reason, and it’s seldom just to be a jerk.

Use what you learn to seek resolution.

Understanding what each person needs and why they need it provides an opportunity to work together to craft a unique resolution that meets everyone’s needs as much as possible. If we work together to find a solution to a problem and that solution meets our needs in an acceptable way, everyone can feel good about the outcome. Relationships are maintained, maybe even strengthened, and new opportunities present themselves.

Avoiding the trap of emotionally-driven behavior and focusing on collaborative problem solving is the key to finding a positive resolution to almost any conflict. But is takes the efforts of everyone to make it work.


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