What creates a need for conflict resolution? The very definition of the word “conflict” provides several possible scenarios: “competitive or opposing action of incompatibles; mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, or wishes; the opposition of persons or forces giving rise to dramatic action”. Or try just the synonym: “discord”.

Conflicts may arise between you and a team member, or you and your boss, or between members of your team. Since it's impossible to anticipate the specifics of conflicts into which you may be drawn, I advise you to adopt Daniel Robin's "Seven Attitudes to Dissolve Conflict", which apply to any conflict situation and represent an attitude that is less confrontational.

Daniel Robin recommends that we “dissolve” problems, rather than “resolve” them. It may sound as if his solution is purely a matter of semantics, but dissolution is a less confrontational way to deal with divisive issues than conflict resolution.

Conflict Dissolution Steps

  • Define what the conflict is about. Ask the other person some questions: “What is the issue”? “What’s your concern here”? “What are we fighting about”. Eventually, ask “What do you want to accomplish”? and “How can we work this out”.

  • It’s not you versus me; it’s you and me versus the problem. The problem is the problem. Trying for a win means the other person will think they lost and will want a rematch so they can win next time. Don’t bring your adversaries to their knees, bring them to the table.

  • Identify your shared concerns against your one shared separation. Deal with the conflict from where the relationship is strongest (where you agree), not weakest. You’re more likely to be effective if you move from areas of agreement. Find common ground by meeting the other person where they are. Acknowledge their viewpoint. Stand on this common ground as a stronger platform from which to work out respective differences.

  • Sort out interpretations from facts. Never ask people who have been in a fight what happened – you’ll get their opinion versus what really occurred. Instead, ask “What did you do or say”? Then you’ll get a perception which is much closer to the facts. Facts help clarify perceptions, which is basic to conflict dissolution.

  • Develop a sense of forgiveness. Reconciliation is impossible without it. Lots of people are willing to bury the hatchet but never forget exactly where they buried it – in case they need it again. Let it go completely! A great definition of forgiveness is “giving up all hope for a better past”.

  • Learn to listen actively. Change from “When I talk, people listen to me”, to “when I listen, people talk to me”. Habit Five in Stephen Covey’s (underline)7 Habits of Highly Effective People(end underline) is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. Backtrack and verify what you hear. Listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to respond – the first step toward reconciliation. And be willing to listen first! This unblocks the logjam of right/wrong thinking, of ego and power, or compassion over fear.

  • Purify your heart. You can’t get rid of conflict and violence in other people without first letting go of it yourself. Consider what you really want and find the place inside you than can lead you to it. Peace – conflict resolution – begins with you!
The next time you find yourself either the irresistible force or the immovable object, try conflict dissolution! You may find that it works faster and lasts longer than conflict resolution, and is less confrontational.