Conflict Resolution

Philosophy: Conflict is often seen as something negative to be avoided at all costs. This might be a good plan if conflict could be avoided, but it can’t. It’s everywhere and constant and that’s not the problem. The problem is we don’t use the energy inherent in conflict to move things forward. We hide it, ignore it, deny it, until it builds into something explosive. When it finally becomes undeniable it’s too late—people, and even organisations, are damaged. It’s far better to look at conflict with a realistic eye and treat it honestly and fairly.

Approach: Start thinking and talking about conflict as a positive engine for progress. Since conflict is everywhere and you can't avoid it, don't pretend it doesn't exist.

1.Start small and deal with conflict between two people. Get them talking about it. Don't try to solve the problem, just listen.

2. Ask the two to describe the areas they don't agree on. Then ask them to describe where they do agree.

3. Don't pretend here either. If there isn't a strong overlap of agreement, then that's where you start. Point out that without any common ground it's going to be hard for them to work together and then just be silent. Let them think and then talk.

4. Where there is agreement point that out. If you see more areas of agreement than disagreement let them know, but be warned--they might not see it as you see it. Let them talk from their point of view.

5. Don't set your sights too high for a first discussion. It takes time to change a personal view. You plant seeds in the first meeting and wait.

6. GIve them a clear and simple task that they need each other to accomplish that has some value to both. This task must be simple and the best way to choose it is to listen for it during discussions.


Once you master conflict mediation with two people you can move on to small groups and finally divisions in the organization. But the rules are the same.

Listen to what they have to say.

Note the grievances and disagreements

Note the agreements and overlaps

Give them time to consider

Get them working on a task that they can and must do together

Many of the most emotional conflicts have their roots in genuine wrongs. These can't be ignored or minimized. To get beyond them you might have to help people learn to say they are sorry.