Project Management

The Only Technique That Resolves Conflicts

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The Only Technique That Resolves Conflicts

This piece continues my previous blog post, “The Techniques That Don't Resolve Conflict,” which looked at why no technique other than collaborate/problem solve truly resolves a conflict. Withdraw/avoid, smooth/accommodate, compromise/reconcile and force/direct are all temporary solutions—they postpone conflict resolution for a later date. Problem solving (through confronting and collaborating) is the only way to settle the conflict for good.

Here are a few points to help resolve conflicts to achieve a win-win.

Separate the Person From the Problem

Normally, people are not right or wrong. They just have different opinions, or want a different outcome than us. There is a fair possibility for an opportunity in this difference. As soon as we start seeing the difference from an angle of opportunity, we reduce our negative emotions, reduce negativity toward the person, start taking an interest in his or her viewpoint and put more focus on the problem.

Respect the Opposite Party

See the rival as a potential ally and friend in this opportunity. Respect him and his views. Genuinely try to help the other party achieve their goal. Persist with this approach even if it is not reciprocated.

Keep the Dialogue Going

It usually takes some time to work through conflicts. Matters do not get resolved quickly or within the time frame we expect. We have to maintain patience and resist the urge to fast-track the decision. Actively explore for a suitable time, engage in a two-way conversation, listen to the other party and express our views. Focus more on the points where we share common ground.

Find the Root Cause

Finding the root cause of the conflict is key to attacking the problem, and not the person. Often the reasons that appear on the surface are different than the real problems at root.

Quite often people cannot express what they really want. We often call this a hidden agenda. Many times, this hidden agenda is not as bad as it appears. For instance, some people do not openly say that they are looking for a promotion, but that’s what they really want. We have to figure out the real need by establishing a two-way conversation.

We also have to look into whether the outcome the other party seeks is a need or interest. Interests are more aspirational, and we can put them on the table. Needs, on the other hand, are basic and therefore nonnegotiable.

Allow Others to Save Face

If the other party comes out clearly on the wrong side or starts losing face, it is not the time to slap. Instead, offer opportunities to save face. Allow the other person a safe way to exit with respect. 

Use the Law of Reciprocity

Reciprocity is the foundation of living together. What we give is what we get. Empathizing and showing acceptance creates an environment of acceptance. If we make a concession, quite possibly the other party also responds. When we realize that the other party has made a concession, we should reciprocate it.

Create an Emotional Link

Emotions are at the core of conflict resolution. Create an emotional link with the other party. We must foster positive emotions such as trust, empathy and acceptance by showing these emotions. Also, we should reduce negative emotions such as anger, fear and frustration. We must balance logic and emotions.

We can find conflicts almost everywhere. The good news is that they can bring more inclusiveness and cohesion in the project team if settled by confronting and not by withdrawing or forcing.

Confronting means: Let’s talk, let me understand you first, let’s find out the root cause, respect others and create an emotional connection. I believe any type of conflict can be resolved by confronting, bringing a win to both the parties.

What’s your experience? Please share your views. 

Posted by Vivek Prakash on: July 06, 2015 08:57 PM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Well said and articulated. Thanks for the post

Excellent post and thanks to make it public.

I strongly agree to separate person from problem, which will individually resolve 70% conflict.

Thanks, very helpful. Reduce negative emotions is not easy, since it's how most of the persons react. As you said, looking for a consensus and making the other party to understand the real root cause of the problem are critical to win/win solution. Great post

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