Subject Area: Leadership, Conflict resolution, business skills, communication, constructive conflict, Overcoming Adversity
Contact Course Instructor
Template for resolving conflict
All companies and organizations have differences and disagreements. Studies show the amount of disagreements are not related to effectiveness, as much as how conflicts are handled. Successful companies do not avoid disagreements; they resolve them while remaining respectful of all involved, thereby strengthening their relationship. These steps are a simple, but effective way to resolve conflict while avoiding the common and destructive patterns. Use this model with an ongoing issue in your business, as well as future issues.
1. Set a time and place for discussion. Avoid “sneak attacks.”
2. Define the problem – Be specific as you frame the issue.
3. List the ways each side contributes to the problem.
4. List past attempts to resolve the issue, which were not successful.
5. Brainstorm—Pool your new ideas and try to list 10 possible solutions to the problem. Do not judge or criticize any of the suggestions at this point.
6. Discuss and evaluate each of these possible solutions. (Be as objective as possible. Talk about how useful and appropriate each suggestion feels for resolving your issue.)
7. Agree on one solution to try.
8. Agree how you will each work toward this solution. (Be as specific as possible.)
9. Set up another meeting to discuss your progress.
10. Affirm one another for progress. (As you notice one another making a positive contribution toward the solution, commend the effort.)
When to Take a Time-Out
Some conflicts become heated as levels of anger and frustration rise. Rather than speaking assertively, people begin to accuse, criticize, or yell. Rather than listening actively, partners interrupt, belittle, and ignore. Physiologically, the “fight or flight” response is triggered as each person goes into a protection mode, with little or no regard for their partner. In this state of escalation, it is not uncommon to say or do things we later regret.
Moreover, it is nearly impossible to have a productive conversation leading to a mutually agreed upon resolution. This is when a “time-out” can be beneficial. A time-out provides people with an opportunity to cool down, identify their feelings and needs, and begin to think productively again about how to approach the issues they face.
1. RECOGNIZE YOUR NEED FOR A TIME-OUT. Are your fists clenched? Is your face red? Are you breathing fast? Are the tears streaming down your face? Do you feel like screaming or throwing something? Are you afraid of the other person’s intensity? Do you feel emotionally closed off ?
• Learn to recognize the signs that things have become too intense for you to have a productive interaction with each other.
• What physical and emotional reactions indicate you need a time-out?
2. REQUEST THE TIME-OUT. Call a time-out for yourself by saying something like “I’m just too angry to talk right now; I need to take a time-out. Please give me an hour to calm down and gather my thoughts.”
• Remember to call the time-out for yourself. It is seldom helpful to tell the other person “You need a time-out!” Suggest a time when you think you’ll be ready to resume.
3. RELAX AND CALM DOWN. Take some deep breaths. Go for a jog. Take a walk. Write in a journal. Read, or listen to music for a while.
• Do something that will help you relax and recover from the emotional intensity.
• What method(s) could you use to calm down?
4. REMEMBER WHAT’S IMPORTANT.
• Try to identify what you were thinking and feeling that became so difficult to discuss.
• Think about “I” messages you could use to tell one another what you were thinking or feeling, and what you need from him/her.
• Remember the two of you are a team, and the only way your relationship will “win” is if you work toward a solution that both individuals can feel good about.
5. RESUME THE CONVERSATION. Bring in the skills of assertiveness and Active Listening and/or the Steps for Conflict Resolution. These structured skills can help contain the intensity as you attempt to resolve a conflict. Honor your commitment to return to the issue when you are ready to have a more productive conversation.
1. Which step is the easiest to take? Which is the hardest?
2. What indicates when you need to take a time-out?