Monthly Archives: May 2013

What is Conflict?

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to a great group of parents at a school on Conflict Resolution and the role of the bystander in a bullying situation. During my lecture, I touched on a disservice that has been done to our children by their parents and schools. That particular disservice is the perpetuation of a one-sided view of conflict. At best, a negative connotation is automatically associated with the term and at worst, it is mislabeled as bullying. During my talk, I made sure to explain the differences between conflict and bullying, but also implored them to explain to their children that there is just as good a chance of a positive outcome as there is a negative outcome when a conflict has surfaced. With that said, here are 7 aspects that we should keep in mind in terms of conflict and how to navigate through them in a healthy manner:


1. Conflict is inevitable and can be negative or positive.

In its simplest terms, conflict is defined as a disagreement with another person. This disagreement can be over limited resources, a difference in perceptions, or a perceived threat to our needs, interests, or concerns. When these things happen, it is important to take the power back in the sense of deciding what to do with our emotions. It is in those choices that conflict can turn in either direction. Choose wisely.


2. Remember to think about the problem.

This is a reminder to stop and calm down if your emotions are running high. When encountering a conflict, our feelings can go through a wide range of stages, from fear to rage. In these cases, it is important to think about the situation and ask yourself “Why is this situation making me feel the way I do at the moment?”, “What exactly are my interests in this situation?”, and “What exactly do I want this other person to do?” When you have sufficiently thought about and found the answer to all 3 of these questions, not only have you likely calmed down from your previous emotional state, but you have also found the words to articulate what to say to the other person.


3. Say what you feel

This is the point where you explain to the other person what you are seeing, how it is making you feel, and what you would like to see happen. The key to this step is non-threatening confrontation. When people use what is typically called the “I message”, it allows the other person to hear what you are saying without shutting themselves down and becoming defensive.


4. Listen to the other person

Quite possibly the most critical step, this is the part in which the other person will either be more inclined to work it out or dig in their heels and battle from positions instead of interests. The key here is to listen intently to the other person while giving eye contact as they say how they see the situation. When this respect is forwarded to the other person, the hostilities can lessen and a resolution is much more attainable.

5. Brainstorm solutions

Once both of you have articulated your feelings and interests, there is a base level of respect that has been established. With that respect, people become interested in a solution that can satisfy all parties. It is during this time that brainstorming solutions can take place. Working together to find a solution can also foster a sense of kinship between people and a future relationship can develop.


6. Decide what each person will do

Once the ideas for resolution have been hashed out and the strengths and weaknesses of each idea have been discovered, you choose the resolution that addresses the most interests between the parties.


7. Stick to what you have decided.

When the resolution has been reached, the disputants have made each other accountable by making good on their part of the agreement. Through this shared responsibility and accountability, a positive relationship or bond can form, leading to a greater sense of community.


These steps are essential to cultivating and fostering a healthy relationship when conflict inevitably occurs. If you have a conflict and need someone to help facilitate these steps between yourself and the other person, do not hesitate to contact me.