The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    6 Steps To Conflict Resolution

    by Kristi Shoemaker / May 14, 2012

    Editor's Note: This post has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on August 19, 2020. Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography.

    Conflict is inevitable. How you resolve conflict is critical. Handling it effectively a key to success but handling it poorly is the roadmap to further conflict.  Robert Pagliarini the founder of Richer Life a community of passionate people who want to learn and achieve more in life and at work, recently wrote an article for CBS MoneyWatch based on his experience counseling hundreds of people on financial disagreements. He shared the six key steps to conflict resolution.  Whether dealing with a money issue, a disgruntled employee, or a frustrated boss, these six steps apply. After reading this article, please add you best practices on how you resolve conflict with your employees.

    6 Steps To Conflict Resolution

    1. Drill down.

    When you get upset, you become flooded with hormones and emotions. Your mind can start to resemble a bee hive of activity -- racing thoughts and a lack of clear focus. Your goal at this stage is drill down and to really try to figure out what you are actually most upset about. You're probably upset over 20 different things, but your job is to keep drilling until you hit the core of what is most upsetting.

    Once you get past feeling angry and thinking that your boss is a jerk, you may find that there is something deeper that is really troubling you. Are you upset that your boss called you out in a meeting when he knew you didn't have the answer or that you're really upset you weren't prepared? The answer will have a profound effect on how you handle the situation.

    2. Get positive.

    It's critical you do your best to determine the other person's positive intent. What's positive intent?  Negative intent is when you attribute the other person's behavior to them wanting to hurt you and do you harm. When you are in the middle of a heated argument, negative intent comes naturally. It's difficult to resolve a conflict if you think the other person is hell-bent on doing you harm. Instead, play detective and try to figure out their positive intent. What positive outcome were they trying to achieve? Once you do this, understanding and empathy can begin to flow.

    3. Step in their shoes.

    This is easier said than done -- especially when emotions are running hot -- but if you really want to resolve the disagreement or conflict, this is essential. Pretend you are the other person and answer these questions: What are your goals? Which of the six human needs are you trying to meet? What must I have been thinking and feeling in order to respond/react the way I did (remember to continue to assume positive intent!)? There is no truth, only interpretation. When you can step into the other person's shoes you can begin to see and understand their interpretation which can help you resolve the conflict.

    4. Rub the "magic genie" lamp.

    Get clear on precisely what you need to have happen. Maybe at this point you realize it's not worth it to resolve the conflict, or alternatively, that what you really need is to rekindle the relationship. Whatever it is, figure it out. Stop focusing on what you didn't get and all the things that didn't work out and start focusing on what you need to have happen now. You may want a heartfelt apology and a dozen roses, but what really is the minimum you need in order to have the conflict resolved? Your answer will be your guide going forward.

    5. Create a game plan.

    Now that you've taken a step back and tried to figure out their perspective and what it is you want to accomplish, now's the time to determine the best course of action to get you what you need. Should you send an email? A phone call? Call in a mediator? What can you do that will increase the chances you'll get your wish from step 4? Your game plan should focus exclusively on only those things you can control.

    While your wish from step 4 may be that the other person apologizes, this is not an effective game plan because you can't control this. Instead, what can you control? Scheduling a meeting? Yes. Having a civil conversation about what happened? Of course. Taking responsibility for things you would have done differently? Absolutely. Do you see what's happening here? You are controlling what you have control over to create an environment where an apology is more likely versus sitting back and waiting for an apology.

    6. Execute.

    Now that you know what you need and what you control, go get it done.

    Resolving conflict is not a simple task, but by keeping these six guidelines in mind, it can be less painful and more effective.  What do you do to resolve conflict? 


    Tags: Employee Engagement

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    Kristi Shoemaker

    Kristi Shoemaker

    Kristi is a marketing communications and public relations expert with over 30+ years of experience in a variety of industries. She was an integral part of EcSell's go-to-market strategy and execution from 2008 - 2012. Kristi enjoys taking a holistic approach by integrating all the key marketing disciplines to create synergies that generate maximum results. She is currently the president of KLS Consulting in Lincoln, Nebraska.