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Conflict Resolution Strategies

Often when we are feeling angry at what another person has said or done we tend to see the person as the problem.

We become very “hard” on that person and view what they say and do in a negative light. As long as we see the other person as the problem there is little chance of an improved working relationship.

When addressing workplace conflict it is important to analyse the issues from both your perspective and the perspective of the other person. The saying “walk a mile in my shoes” is appropriate when it comes to conflict as it is important to have empathy and understanding of the other person’s experience, not just our own. Following are some tips for analyzing the issues underlying the conflict.

Ask yourself

o What is the conflict about?

o What does the issue appear to be on the surface?

o What about this issue that has made me upset or angry?

o Do I have underlying concerns, wants or needs that are not being met?

o What is needed to improve in my present circumstances?

Try to guess what factors might be contributing to the conflict for the other person

o How might they see the situation?

o How might your colleague be viewing you actions?

o What needs might he/she have?

o What is important to the other person?

Key Strategies

  • Own you own perceptions, that is, acknowledge that the way you see the situation is not necessarily the way other persons might see the situation.

  • Assess whether you have made assumptions about the other person’s intentions or actions that need to be checked out.

  • Examine what your expectations are of the other person or of the situation and in what ways your expectations were not met. Would the other person be aware of or share your expectations?

  • Consider what your alternatives are should you be unsuccessful in resolving this conflict. This will help you better understand your situation and alternatives. A feeling of having choices always lowers anxiety and fear.

  • Consider whether there are external factors impacting the working relationship.

  • Describe the problem in non-blaming, non personalized manner Example - "I believe one of our problems is communication. How do we work together to improve our communication with each other?"

The language we use is essential

  • Using an “I” statement, so it is clearly being acknowledged as your opinion (not the objective truth, such as “It is clear the problem is….”)

  • As mutual (our problem, not your problem)

  • Using a neutral term (communication, not poor communication or “you never talk to me!”)

  • With parity between the parties (you don’t know and I don’t know….)

  • If you can describe the problem without blaming, put downs or generalizing about the other person, then you are ready to be hard on the problem, not the person.


If you do not feel that you can calmly discuss the problem at the time the conflict arises then organize a time to discuss it. This way you can walk away and have time to gather your thoughts so you can present them in a calm and clear manner. Raised and/or angry voices immediately lose credibility.

Remember the key to conflict is resolution not blame.

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