In principle, most conflicts are based on misunderstandings. When we make the effort to truly understand the other’s perspective and when we have shared understanding of future expectations, conflict often goes away.
Practical Tip: When in conflict, do something about it. Either change your attitude about it so it is no longer a conflict for you or work directly with your adversary. You might try these steps:
1. Pause. Breathe. Step away. Do not immediately react with words or actions you might regret later.
2. Share stories. Tell how the conflict came to be, what it was like from your perspective, and what it is like now. Listen to the other person’s story, how it was for them, and how it is now. Try to understand how the other person’s experience could lead them to their way of thinking and acting.
3. Share feelings. How does the conflict make you feel? Figure this out and share it. No one can argue with your feelings. Try to understand how others feel.
4. Share underlying interests. Why is this so important to you? What is the need in you that resolving this conflict will satisfy? What are your underlying, long-term interests? Share your answers to these questions and listen to the answers of others.
5. What are you going to do about it? Speak for yourself: what are you going to do differently so that underlying interests are achieved? Listen to what others intend to do. You might want to write down intentions in the form of a written agreement or contract.
6. Do it. Things will not change if people do not actually do things differently. Take responsibility for acting out your new intentions as best you can.
– Craig Freshley
Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.
3 thoughts on “Conflict resolution steps”
Helps in almost any situation, business or personal.
Do you think some or all of these principles apply to groups or governments as well as to individuals? How would you change what is below to address the macro instead of the micro?
I’m so glad you wrote about this. How to do conflict resolution on the macro level, nation-level, has much been on my mind.
Essentially, I think the steps are the same. It takes a LOT of talking AND listening. Before a country engages in conflict with another, we should try our best to understand each other’s stories, and even feelings; where each other is coming from, about each other’s culture. We should also work on understanding each other’s underlying interests, the deeper interests beyond just getting a bit more land, or whatever. Probably the deeper interests are “long term economic stability, dignity and respect for our people and our religion, etc.” The point is, if we can be open about what those underlying interests are we have a better chance of getting them met…..perhaps by means totally different than “getting a bit more land” or whatever.
In current world politics, we talk of “diplomacy” as the alternative to war, and that’s great, but often diplomacy focuses right in on solutions (step 5) rather than beginning with steps 2, 3, and 4. Diplomacy often gets right down to making treaties and written agreements about what the parties will do but often such agreements don’t hold because they are on artificial foundation.
I know this is idealistic – to think that entire cultures of people can share stories, feelings, and underlying interests. So what! I truly believe that is what is required to make peace rather than war.
So my short answer is, no matter micro or macro, the process of making peace rather than war is essentially the same.
And of course, making peace is much harder………