How to Effectively Resolve Conflict
For those who go throughout the day dodging or closing our eyes and ears to conflict, you’re in good company. Many are uncomfortable with approaching a situation where potential resentment, anger or hurt feelings exist; where the wrong word or gesture can create a flood of issues or perhaps a legal claim. Unfortunately, people can be quick to take offense even when none was intended, and those who are offended can become bitter against an individual or organization as a whole. Avoiding the responsibility to resolve conflict can contribute to issues becoming exaggerated until they become detrimental to you and the organization.
There are three important factors in mediating or resolving conflict; 1- Ensure the parties involved are listening, 2- Remain neutral as the Mediator and 3- Focus on the facts.
Ensure the parties involved are listening: The source of conflict can often result from a lack of understanding. Listening is not always easy, especially when there is conflict; so to resolve it, you will need to create an environment where feedback can be expressed in a constructive way. Preferably, it works best to bring the parties together where you can facilitate a discussion. During this meeting, you start out by formally establishing ground rules around emotions, language, talk time and listening; while pointing out that the purpose of the meeting is to resolve the conflict. During the discussion, keep the individuals on task and take notes of any facts discussed (it often helps to bring in another person to assist you). If the parties refuse to come together, meet one-on-one until they agree to meet face to face. Keep in mind that you are not trying to solve the problem; you’re facilitating the process that allows them to solve their own problem.
Remain neutral as the Mediator: There are no winners in conflict – only losers, so refrain from getting caught up in taking sides and focus on keeping the dialogue constructive. Those in conflict both feel their cause is just, so if you become judgmental you will not be effective as a mediator. In many cases, parties with conflict can be both right and wrong; it’s up to them to recognize where, when and how in order for agreement and change to occur. Be patient and don’t expect the issue to be resolved with one discussion; you may need to schedule several discussions before the conflict is resolved and trust is established.
Focus on the facts: As mentioned earlier, maintain notes of the facts that are generated by the discussion. These facts will become the focus of resolving the issues. Facts are not subjective opinions, their facts. When one becomes clear on the facts, they can look at the issue with an objective view. Examples of facts include: The person left work unfinished; Embarrassing name calling in front of peers; Making personal threats; Derogatory remarks about the individual to other people.
Facts that cause conflict become the source that actions are based upon and where agreement is reached. Opinions, perception and emotion are not facts, yet they often become the focus of an argument that lead to more conflict and resentment. As the Mediator, you can listen to the discussion and acknowledge the emotions and perception while helping the parties clearly understand the facts of the issue. In time, the discussion will turn from emotional to constructive – with the parties understanding the facts that created the issues while seeking for agreement.
An additional benefit of becoming effective in resolving conflict is thatyou become more comfortable in talking with individuals who may be critical of you. This process will provide you with the insight to learn about yourself and opportunities for improvement. It’s been said that feedback is a gift –providing that you are able to receive it without feelings of resentment that leads toconflict. Look for the facts in the feedback and seek to understand how you can improve.
As we become more effective in resolving conflict; working relationships, communication and productivity will improve.