How to effectively resolve conflicts – an analysis of the strategies of a famous conflictologist from personal experience
The author of a telegram channel about soft skills, Igor Demishev, parsed the classic strategies of behavior in conflict situations from his own experience. At the end of the article is a cheat sheet on the algorithm of behavior in conflict situations.
Conflicts are part of our everyday life. How well we deal with these situations directly affects the quality of our lives and how well we achieve our goals.
Conflictologists Ken Thomas and Ralph Kilman have created a model describing basic strategies for behavior in conflict situations. It is especially helpful for a good leader/manager/leader to know these strategies for conflict behavior. Then you will not only be able to achieve your goals systematically and consistently, even in difficult situations, but also to steer your team in the right direction.
The main rule in a conflict is to consciously choose your line of behavior and remember including the impact of the relationship with the person on your long-term goals
Thomas-Kilman divided strategies according to two scales: orientation on own needs and striving to take into account the interests of other people. Based on these criteria, they identified five strategies. For convenience I have also divided them into active (those that require you the resource to solve) and passive (which require a minimum expenditure of energy).
- Active Active strategies involve finding the best way to achieve your goals, but cost your resources. 1. Compromise 2. Cooperation 3. Rivalry
- Passive Passive strategies are primarily for “cheap” solutions to unimportant issues. 1. Concession 2. Avoidance
As you can see in the illustration, I prefer to resolve most conflicts through cooperation or compromise. In my case, this behavior was formed before I learned about this model, through my own experience (only the manuals of ~7 years). But the same classics like Dale Carnegie only reinforce the belief in the proper distribution of the choices of conflict resolution.
More about each strategy below.
I believe that avoidance in itself is good either when it buys you time to consciously move on to another strategy, or when the conflict is not worth the effort and you are not going to maintain the relationship with the person.
One of my favorite ways to use this strategy is to avoid conflict and then move on to cooperation. I started using this method quite a long time ago, more due to individual differences. And recently I got to read Dale Carnegie’s book How to Make Friends and Influence People. In it he advocates this approach.
The only way to gain an advantage in an argument is to avoid it.
According to his methodology, building long-term relationships with people overwhelmingly outweighs the benefits of a possible local victory. Arguing is destructive to relationships. I’m not so categorical, but I can’t compete with the maitre d’ of soft skills.
But avoiding conflict is a difficult skill to master. To master it, you need to be able to carefully perceive the other person’s position and carefully analyze other points of view. There are specific things that can help with this:
- Thinking about the consequences of an argument: – Whether the outcome of the argument will attract or alienate my opponents from me. – Will I win or lose this argument? – What price will I have to pay for participating in the argument? And for winning? – If I lose locally, what is my long-term gain?
- Give both parties time to think (if time permits). For example, make an appointment to meet the next day.
- Learn to communicate calmly, even if the opponent doesn’t follow this rule and generally pisses you off.
- Ask yourself the following questions: – What if my opponent is right in whole or in part? – Does his or her position have merit?
Does this method always work effectively? – No. There are cases where direct conflict or other strategies are more effective. Avoidance is not appropriate when you need to make quick decisions and the cost of delay is too great. You wouldn’t, for example, avoid conflict if the health of you or your loved ones were at stake, would you?
Avoid conflict when you need to buy time or when the conflict is not worth the effort.
It’s also an accommodation. This strategy involves concessions to the opponent to avoid confrontation. It differs from a compromise in that you completely ignore your own subrequirements and act according to your opponent’s plan.
Despite the fact that this strategy is usually used unconsciously by insecure people, I consider it to be an important tool for the conscious manager as well. It’s simple – apply it to matters that are not fundamental to you. That way you save a lot of energy for the really important issues.
But it’s important not to overdo it. If you resort to this strategy very often, it can be considered a weakness. Or if you begin to take a passive stance on matters of principle, you will begin to be exposed to negative emotions.
Give in when the issue of conflict is not crucial or important to you. But don’t overdo it, lest it be seen as weakness
The most desirable strategies are cooperation or compromise, because they involve the most constructive behavior on both sides.
Let’s say you listened to the previous advice and at the sharpest peak of the conflict you stuck to the avoidance strategy, letting your opponent “blow off steam”. Next, it is important to engage in time and find common ground with the other side. To do this, you need to answer the questions:
- Is the object of the conflict important to him?
- What goals does he have? What are his interests?
- What values are important to him/her? What issues are fundamental to him/her?
- What resources does he/she have for resolving the conflict?
- How does the person usually behave in conflict situations?
- What kind of relationship do you have with him?
Further, depending on the answers to all these questions and your knowledge of your opponent, you can assume what strategy he will choose. And with this information you have more accurately be able to adjust your behavior.
In addition, it is important to find possible mutually exclusive interests in order to understand whether it will be necessary to make mutual concessions (compromise), or it will be possible to achieve the full satisfaction of the parties (full cooperation).
At work, for example, I most often use the transition to cooperation through the search for common KPIs or other mutual benefits. If there is no such thing, I try to go in through building good relationships or formal agreements. And only in the last place do I escalate the issue higher. This tactic very rarely fails)
The main criterion for choosing between cooperation and compromise is whether the parties have mutually exclusive interests
Rivalry implies that you push your own interests as far as possible, possibly to the detriment of your opponent’s interests.
The main tools of this strategy:
- Tight control of the situation and your opponent’s actions
- Pressure on your opponent
- Creating an advantage in your favor by any means
- Provoking the opponent to make mistakes
- Avoiding (constructive) dialogue with your opponent
Some tools are in the “gray” zone of ethics. Many lead to a deterioration of relations with your opponent. Therefore, when I apply this technique, I very carefully choose the tools I will use. This makes it easier to return to my standard cooperative strategy later on.
For example, I used a competitive conflict resolution strategy when I was on a tight deadline for launching a project. At the time, I had to make a quick decision and maximize the time to create the product.
In this situation, I simply put the man before the fact that we would act in a certain way. If his team didn’t get the job done in time, we would launch the project without that part.
I could afford this at the time, as I was responsible for the outcome of the project, had a good understanding of why such a decision was better for the business, and had the support of the main stakeholder. If I had not done this, I would have bogged down in a dialogue with the head of that team, as he is quite a skilled negotiator. This would have resulted in disruption of deadlines and demotivation of the team, which was already working at its limits.
In the end, the adjacent team accelerated and they had time to do the most important things. We honestly nailed the secondary things, and we didn’t regret that decision. But in the moment it caused our relationship with their supervisor to deteriorate – that’s the price we had to pay.
Use rivalry when the conflict cannot be resolved constructively, you are confident that you will win and accept the risks of ruining relations with your opponent
Finally, I’ll share the promised algorithm for choosing a strategy for behavior in conflict situations. As you may have remembered from the picture at the beginning of the article, my advice is to use compromise or cooperation in 60% of cases, avoidance in 20%, and another 10% for competition and concession.
Perhaps the numbers are a bit far-fetched and in reality things are much more complicated. But for the basic choice of the strategy this variant will do. Enjoy it!
Write in comments if you have something to say about conflict resolution!
How to Solve a Conflict
Contributor(s): Liana Georgoulis, PsyD. Dr. Liana Georgoulis is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 10 years of experience. She is currently the clinical director of Coast Psychological Services in Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in Psychology in 2009. She is involved in cognitive behavioral therapy and other evidence-based therapies, working with adolescents, adults, and couples.
Number of sources used in this article: 14. You will find a list of them at the bottom of the page.
Number of views of this article: 31 320.
Everyone encounters all kinds of conflicts repeatedly throughout their lives. As a rule, conflict is a signal for change and growth, for better understanding and communication, whether with oneself or with others.  X Source of Information Although managing conflict is not easy, it is important to do everything you can on your part to make the discussion of a contentious issue go more smoothly and you are able to overcome the disagreement. Since conflict is part of our daily lives, it is important to learn how to resolve it.
- Think about the following useful questions: What event or moment triggered the conflict? What exactly are you striving for, but cannot achieve? What are you afraid of losing? Is your frustration/anger appropriate to the situation, or are your emotions exaggerated?  X Source of Information
- As you reflect on the situation, make a list of problems and then pay attention to how they relate to each other. If you can’t immediately identify the main problem, interconnectedness will help you identify it fairly quickly.
Startup founder and chief engineer
Gene Linecki is a startup founder and software engineer from the San Francisco Bay Area. He has worked in the technology industry for more than 30 years. He is currently the chief engineer at Poynt, a technology company that makes payment smart terminals for businesses.
Focus on the problem, not the other person. Gene Linecki – startup founder and software engineer – says, “When my employees are conflicted, I encourage them to stand in front of a whiteboard and list all the things they agree and disagree on about the problem. This allows you to look at the problem from the problem’s perspective and helps eliminate disagreements and arguments.”
- Separate the person from the problem. View the problem as an isolated act or set of circumstances, rather than blaming the person for it and saying that it is characteristic of their personality. This approach will help you solve the problem and save your relationship with the person with whom you are in conflict. It is much better than deciding for yourself that you want nothing more to do with that person.  X Source of Information
- Use a statement that begins with the pronoun “I.” Start the conversation with phrases like this: “I feel . “, “I think . “, “When you (objectively describe the problem), I felt . “, “I wish (say what you want the person to do in the future to prevent the problem from occurring) . “. For example, the phrase, “I feel we spend too little time together,” is much better than, “You always ignore me.”  X Source of Information
- Watch your speech during a conversation. When people get into conflict with someone, they often use abusive language, including profanity, profanity and derogatory words. Such words only intensify the conflict and often take the conversation away from the key issue. Try to speak more objectively, explaining your position. This will make your conversation less stressful.
- Be specific. This doesn’t mean you have to list a hundred things the other party did that offended you and caused the conflict. It’s better to take an example of one or two situations and stick to them in order to explain your view of the problem to the other person. For example, if your friend occasionally ignores you, give him or her a specific example and say, “It really hit me when you left the party early to go out with friends instead of spending time with me.”
- Focus on the other person. Put aside distracting thoughts and show the other person that what they are saying is important to you. By listening carefully, you will gain important information that will help you resolve the conflict.
- Maintain eye contact. Constantly look at the interlocutor. Make sure that your gaze is not aggressive.
- Avoid gestures, body positions and facial expressions that express judgement or anger. Do not roll your eyes, cross your arms or legs, or smirk. Your goal is to gather relevant information, not to judge the person. Your interlocutor should feel that you can be trusted.
- Allow your interlocutor personal space and time to speak. Do not interrupt his or her speech with objections. Ask questions or offer your opinion after the person has expressed his/her point of view on a controversial issue.
- Support the person using simple comments or gestures. For example, nod your head or say, “I understand how upsetting this is for you. Use simple interjections that show you are listening carefully. Such phrases and gestures express understanding and encourage the person to continue to participate in the dialogue.
- Show empathy. Show the person that you understand their position: by doing so you show your attention to them, and also show that you understand that you are individuals with feelings and emotions, not emotionless robots.  X Reliable Source HelpGuide Go to Source
- Pay attention to nonverbal cues. Learn to understand another person’s body language. Pay attention to the nonverbal cues a person sends you, such as their posture, tone of voice, and facial expression. Sometimes a person’s body language speaks louder than their words.  X Reliable Source HelpGuide Go to Source
- For example, if you have a conflict with a colleague and you have listened to that person’s point of view, summarize and say, “If I understand you correctly, you don’t like that you are not involved in creating a new project, and you would really like to be on the planning committee.” Then wait until the person agrees with what you said or makes the necessary adjustments.
- Don’t get hung up on your position. “Position” is a desired outcome of a conflict that is usually non-negotiable and often leads to a deadlocked situation. For example, a position might be: “I don’t want to live in the same room with you anymore,” or, “I won’t work with that person anymore.” For the conflict to be resolved, each side must move beyond the position taken.  X Source of information
- Focus on the present and the future. Conflicts are usually the result of past mistakes and wrong behavior. However, one of the most important ways to take ownership of the problem is to recognize that regardless of what happened in the past, you need to focus on resolving the present conflict and dealing with its consequences in the future.  X Reliable Source HelpGuide Go to Source
- Be creative. It is usually very difficult to make a decision that satisfies everyone’s wishes and often requires flexibility and wisdom. Sometimes the conflicting parties will find a quick solution to a problem. However, these solutions are usually temporary because the parties to the conflict do not consider all the nuances and do not think about the consequences of the decision taken. (For example, if you and your roommate decide to eat separately, consider who will pay for the items you use together, such as toilet paper.) Consider many alternatives, going beyond established principles.  X Source of Information
- Be precise and specific when discussing conflict resolution. When trying to resolve a conflict, be precise and consider all points carefully.  X Source of Information Imagine you have a conflict with your roommate, and you have each made a written contract. Before you sign at the end of the contract, make sure you fully understand each term (for example, if the contract says you must clean the toilet regularly, find out how often you should do it-twice a week or twice a month). Sign the contract only after discussing all the issues or ambiguous clauses that can be interpreted in different ways.
- Note that truth is a relative concept; what is true for one person may not be true for another. For example, witnesses to a car accident may testify differently, even though they all witnessed what happened. This is due to the fact that they may have seen the accident from different locations. Therefore, the truth depends on the person’s point of view.  X Source of Information
- Does the problem that occurred matter to you? Ask yourself about it. Perhaps the resolution of the issue affects your ego. If the other party to the conflict is not willing to compromise, and you realize that the issue is more important to that person, then it may be time to reach out and end the conflict.
- When making concessions, avoid being dramatic. You can say, “Kolya, I heard your point of view when we were discussing the schedule difference. Although I still hold my opinion, I can see that you are unlikely to concede. I am willing to do whatever it takes to put an end to the misunderstanding that has arisen. I will support you by following the schedule we have set.” You can have your own opinion while still supporting the person’s point of view.
- During the break, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about why the solution they offer is so important to them. Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, ask yourself: “How would I negotiate with someone like me?”
- Be sure to reflect again on your point of view. Can you give in on the less important thing and continue to stick to your position on the issue that matters most to you?
- If you have a conflict at work, write a brief summary of your last conversation in correct form and send it to the other party to the conflict. Make sure your letter is objective and non-threatening. By doing so, you will show your opponent that you understand the conflict. In addition, by doing so you will remind the person of your point of view. You will also show that you are willing to solve the problem diplomatically. Moreover, putting it in writing puts responsibility on both sides of the conflict.
Maintain confidentiality. Discuss the situation only with the other party to the conflict. Remember, only address the issue with the person with whom you have the conflict. If you turn a blind eye to the problem or tell other people about it, you can only expect to escalate the conflict and spread rumors.  X Source of Information