[Noozhawk’s note: Second of two articles on solving conflict resolution. Click here for the previous article.]

Last week’s column outlined the theories of Conflict Styles and the Interest-Based Relationship Approach. Based on these theories, a starting point to deal with conflict is to identify your own overriding conflict style and that of your team and your organization.

Over time, people’s conflict management styles tend to mesh, and a “right” way to solve conflict emerges. However, make sure that people understand that different styles may suit different situations. Always consider the circumstances and the style that may be appropriate.

Then use the process below to resolve the conflict:

Step One: Set the Scene

If appropriate to the situation, agree to the rules of the Interest-Based Relationship Approach (or at least consider using the approach yourself.) Make sure people understand that the conflict may be a mutual problem, which may be best resolved through discussion and negotiation rather than through raw aggression.

If you are involved in the conflict, emphasize the fact that you are presenting your perception of the problem. Use active listening skills to ensure you hear and understand the positions and perceptions of others.

» Restate.

» Paraphrase.

» Summarize.

And make sure that when you talk, you’re using an adult, assertive approach rather than a submissive or aggressive style.

Step Two: Gather Information

This step helps you get to the underlying interests, needs and concerns. Ask for the other person’s viewpoint and confirm that you respect his or her opinion and need his or her cooperation to solve the problem. Try to understand his or her motivations and goals, and see how your actions may be affecting these.


Also, try to understand the conflict in objective terms: Is it affecting work performance? damaging the delivery to the client? disrupting team work? hampering decision-making? Be sure to focus on work issues and leave personalities out of the discussion.

» Listen with empathy and see the conflict from the other person’s point of view.

» Identify issues clearly and concisely.

» Use “I” statements.

» Remain flexible.

» Clarify feelings.

Step Three: Agree on the Problem

This sounds obvious, but often different underlying needs, interests and goals can cause people to perceive problems differently. You’ll need to agree upon the problems that you are trying to solve before you’ll find a mutually acceptable solution.

Sometimes different people will see different but interlocking problems — if you can’t reach a common perception of the problem, then at the very least, you need to understand what the other person sees as the problem.

Step Four: Brainstorm Possible Solutions

If everyone is going to feel satisfied with the resolution, everyone must have fair input in generating solutions. Brainstorm possible solutions, and be open to all ideas, including ones you never considered before.

Step Five: Negotiate a Solution

By this stage, the conflict may be resolved: Both sides may better understand the position of the other, and a mutually satisfactory solution may be clear to all.

However, you may also have uncovered real differences between your positions. This is where a technique like win-win negotiation can be useful to find a solution that hopefully satisfies everyone.

There are three guiding principles here:

» Be Calm

» Be Patient

» Have Respect

Key Takeaways

Conflict in the workplace can be incredibly destructive to good teamwork.

Managed in the wrong way, real and legitimate differences between people can quickly spiral out of control, resulting in damaging situations in which cooperation breaks down and the team’s mission is threatened. This is particularly the case where the wrong approaches to conflict resolution are used.

To solve these situations, it helps to take a positive approach to conflict resolution. This means discussion is courteous and nonconfrontational, and the focus is on issues rather than on individuals. If this is done and if people listen carefully and explore facts, issues and possible solutions properly, conflict can often be resolved effectively.

Click here for a related article.

John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or to get his book. If you have questions about business or social etiquette, just ask John at johnkeyclass@gmail.com. Connect with The Key Class on Facebook. Follow John Daly on Twitter: @johndalyjrClick here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.