Four steps for resolving conflict

Conflict resolution is a process which aims to reduce disagreement. It takes time, but it reaps huge rewards.

The benefits of resolving conflict include better team dynamics, less personal stress and increased creativity. The aim of conflict resolution is to create fair solutions, which everyone can agree to. There are five steps involved in resolving conflict.

1. Agree on the issue which needs to be resolved

If you really want to sort out a conflict, you need to focus on one issue at a time. This makes problem solving easier. Start by listing all the problems which need to be discussed. Then look for themes which tie these issues together. For example, team members might be arguing about time spent on tea breaks, who works the hardest and whether smokers should be allowed outside between meal breaks. The key issue underlying these problems is time management. Focussing on this core issue helps resolve the other, related, problems.

2. Ask each person to describe their needs

Taking ‘turns’ to talk helps everyone understand each. It also builds trust. Make time for each person to speak without interruption. Really concentrate on listening to each other. Take it in turns to explain:

  • What each person needs in relation to the issue
  • Why these needs are important to them
  • What each person is worried about in relation to the issue
  • What those worries show about their needs

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3. Brainstorm ways of solving the problem

The best solutions to conflict are those that meet all parties’ needs. Challenge the team to find ways to do this. Spend half an hour brainstorming. Don’t dismiss any ideas at this stage. Simply generate as many options as possible. Remember that conflict resolution is a creative process.

4. Create a concrete action plan

A good action plan outlines what needs to happen nextTo build your action plan, answer the following questions:

  • Which options will we take action on?
  • What steps are involved?
  • Who is responsible for each step?
  • When will we review our progress?

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