August 6, 2018
10 Things

10 things I know about ... Conflict resolution

Danielle Clark

10) Know the signs. There is healthy conflict, and then there is toxic conflict. If it's toxic, resolution is impossible, and an exit strategy should instead be the focus. Cues of toxic conflict include a rapidly escalating argument, blaming and aversion.

9) Pick your battles. Take time to assess how important an issue is before you try to resolve it. Ask yourself, "In seven minutes will I care about this? What about in seven days, seven months, or seven years?" This quick exercise will offer perspective.

8) Location matters. Meet in a neutral setting. Consider where you and the other party would be most comfortable: a conference room, local coffee shop or a brewery?

7) Come prepared. Unexpected thoughts, comments and emotions occur during conflict, so be ready. Play out the conversation in your head, get advice from your trusted network, and bring notes so you stay true to the message you want to convey.

6) It's strategic. There is a variety of tactful strategies. Common conflict management approaches include forcing, accommodating, avoiding, compromising and collaborating. Know when to use them.

5) Be clear. When you want to express a concern 1) concisely state the problem; 2) educate the party on how it impacts you; and 3) state your desired resolution. Stay focused on the future, not the past.

4) Own it. Healthy conflict isn't about who wins or who loses. If done right, it's about addressing concerns and strengthening understanding. Drop your ego. Stay calm. Actively listen. Ask clarifying questions. Apologize. Grant forgiveness.

3) Circle back. Don't assume a conflict is resolved after what appears to be a successful meeting. People process information at different times so check in with the person after the resolution to see if there are unsettled feelings or concerns.

2) It's a skill. Just like public speaking and time management are skills, so is conflict resolution. To improve this skill, there are books, resources, mentors and college classes.

1) Stay strong. Not everyone is going to be your biggest fan, and that is OK.

Danielle Clark is director of Nichols College's Master of Organizational Leadership (MSOL) Program and an assistant professor in Dudley.

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