Three basic principles for resolving conflict

Posted by Jan Lawrence

1. Treat the other person with respect

Remember that the other person is human, has feelings and can feel just as vulnerable as you. Be prepared for the fact that you may have misunderstood the situation. When you disagree with someone’s views, or have strong feelings about their actions, it is often too easy to show disrespect in the way you interact with them.

Take care not to convey disrespect for other people through:

  • Making assumptions and judgements about them and their actions.
  • Not listening to what is being said.
  • Not looking at them.
  • Your tone of voice.
  • The words which you use.

Take time to acknowledge your own feelings and become aware of how the other person might be feeling in the situation. Then try to take account of those feelings, and treat the other person as you would like to be treated.

2. Listen until you feel where the other person’s shoe pinches

  • Listen to what the other person is saying, and re-state their point of view, including their feelings, before putting forward your own points.
  • Concentrate fully on understanding what you are hearing, rather than on what you are going to say next.
  • Clarify any points made which you do not fully understand, and at intervals, reflect back what you are hearing to be sure you understand what has been said.
  • Accept the other person’s right to disagree with you, even when you have strong views.
  • Avoid interrupting.
  • Avoid the temptation to ‘score points’ or put the other person down.

3. As appropriate, say what you think, need and feel

  • The aim of resolving conflict is for all participants in the process to get their needs met as far as is possible.
  • Take responsibility for your own feelings and avoid blaming. Use ‘I’ statements. For example, ‘When you… I feel… rather than ‘you make me feel…’
  • Stick to facts and observed behaviour: don’t make inferences or interpret what you see.
  • Be brief and clear about what you feel and what your needs are.
  • If you feel vulnerable or threatened, take deep slow breaths and ‘stand tall’: it will help you to think and express yourself.
  • Avoid judgemental words e.g. ‘stupid’, ‘ridiculous’.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say – don’t exaggerate or minimise.
  • If you feel you are not being heard, quietly repeat your point until it is acknowledged and understood.
  • Listen to the other person’s responses and take account of them.
  • Be prepared to negotiate: ‘I understand that you don’t feel you can support me in this way – is there another way round this?’

Created by Dot Gourlay in conjunction with the Health Education Board for Scotland.