The Proven Six-Step Tool for Conflict Resolution

Conflict happens. It’s real. As unpleasant as it can be, the reality is that conflict is the single best vehicle with which to identify areas of friction that must be resolved for the long-term health of your team. However, it’s one thing to recognize friction and quite another to eliminate it. Use this proven six-step tool for conflict resolution:

  1. Step 1: Listen This is typically the most challenging step of all, especially during a heated debate. Yet it’s critical to let the other person share all of their thoughts about the issue at hand.
  2. Step 2: Mirror what you hear Whereas interrupting, interjecting, and raising your voice will increase the anger of the other person, the act of mirroring diffuses it. Mirroring is merely repeating what you heard so that the other person feels heard. For example: “So what I hear you saying is you’re very frustrated about x,y,x. Do I hear you correctly?”
  3. Step 3: Ask for more information Ask the person something along the lines of, “What else? What else is frustrating you about this situation?” Doing so helps to ensure that the other person can get every last bit of tension off of their mind. If they have additional information to add, be sure to use the mirroring technique outlined in step two.
  4. Step 4: Validate Keep in mind that feelings and opinions are neither right nor wrong. They’re just information. To validate someone’s feelings does not mean you have to agree or take the blame. An example of validation would be to say, “It makes sense that you feel this way. Looking at it from your perspective, I would probably feel the same way.”
  5. Step 5: Empathize A close cousin to validation is empathy. Empathy seeks to understand what another is feeling. Empathizing is an essential final step before we start to try to resolve the conflict in a more tangible, direct manner. Empathy looks like this: “”I would imagine you might also be feeling, ‘Why do I even try around here? Does it even matter to anyone?’ Are you feeling that way?” If the other person expounds upon your empathy statement beyond a simple yes or no, then be sure and repeat the steps above.
  6. Step 6: Ask to respond Now it is your turn to answer with your perspective. Be sure to use positive body language, tone of voice, and word choices during this part so that the other person will not feel inclined to defend themselves. Positive body language includes smiling, direct eye contact, and frequent head nods. Positive voice tone consists of using a calm, slow, deliberate, and kind tone. Positive word choices include validation and empathy along with non-absolutes. An absolute is when you say, “You always or never do this.” A non-absolute is, “You frequently or sometimes do this.”

Using this proven six-step tool for conflict resolution will indeed work wonders in your interpersonal conflicts in the workplace.