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Conflict Resolution Basics in Three Steps

Conflict is a part of all relationships though we often think of it as disagreements or differences of opinion. Conflict doesn’t have to be divisive, but instead it can provide an opportunity for growth and development. Following these conflict resolution steps can stimulate positive responses and behaviors to unfold.

Whenever two or more people are gathered for an extended period of time, whether at home, work, church, synagogue or other places of worship, or in gatherings of friends, or out in the community, there will be some level of conflict from time to time whether it presents as passing squabbles or long term feuds.

Sometimes responses are mild and internalized causing only brief inner discomfort. Sometimes they become loud, public, contentious, and trigger lasting emotional damage. Either way, the following basic conflict resolution steps can help.

  1. Examine yourself and your motives and role in the situation. Many people skip this crucial step, but that could intensity a conflict. For example, I often assume I know exactly what I believe and why this particular issue “should” be resolved in the way I see it at this moment.

When I take the time to stop and ask myself some questions about how I am operating in this situation and what is important here, I find myself thinking more deeply. Sometimes I discover a motive or an idea that wasn’t in my surface level consciousness.

When we take the time for self-reflection, we become clearer about what’s at stake. Keep in mind that this step is only for oneself. We don’t need to share it, just examine it and know it.

2. Take time to understand the other person or people’s perspectives. Again it’s easy to skip this step and assume that we know what the other person thinks. Asking the other person to share their point of view and listening closely, affirms them and builds relationship. We might also learn something about their perspective that we didn’t know before.This doesn’t imply we must agree in any way. We are simply seeking to understand the other person’s values, point of view and what is at stake for them.

3. Engage in conversation or negotiation with respect for self and others (or decide not to engage at this time). Often people jump directly to conversation and negotiation without examining self and taking time to understand the other person, or people.

When we do this we risk jeopardizing the respect aspect that is key to success, either by giving in to pressure (lack of respect for self) or overpowering others in our haste to arrive at the “correct” solution (lack of respect for others).

Steps one and two serve to slow the process down and build a foundation for the work of conversation and negotiation. The extra steps may feel stressful initially, but they will be beneficial and time-saving in the long run. From time to time steps one and two lead to a decision that it is better to let this particular issue go without the need to engage in conversation or negotiation. This could head off conflict as long as it doesn’t lead to internalized tension because the issue was actually too important to oneself to hold inside.

Using these steps can sometimes allow a difference of opinions to remain low on the tension scale, and prevent the development of a higher of level conflict.

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