The ABC’s of Successful Conflict Resolution

Conflict in the workplace

Conflict in the workplace can be one of the hardest things to manage. Faith Ralston provides 26 ready to implement solutions.

1. Admit there’s a problem

Solutions aren’t possible until you admit there’s a problem. When tensions surface and problems mount, simply stop and admit there’s a problem. Say to yourself and others, ‘I need help.’ Or ‘We have a problem.’ Acknowledge problems.

2. Believe more is possible

We don’t tackle conflicts because we think ‘Nothing is going to change. Why bother?’ Believing more is possible is the beginning of rebuilding positive working relationship. Envision that’s possible. Believe there’s a better way.

3. Commit to change

Make a decision to address the situation – and stick to it. Do what is necessary to move towards a positive solution. Be willing to ride the waves of discomfort in exchange for positive relationships and results. Remember it’s worth it.

4. Discover your part

It’s time to do some soul searching. Recognize ways you have contributed to the problem. Ask yourself ‘How am I contributing to this dynamic? What do I need to say or do to contribute to a solution?’ Ask: ‘What’s my part?’

5. Engage others

Reach out and engage others in finding a better solution. Initiate a conversation with the person(s) directly. Be the first to go to the other and express your desire to find a better way. Initiate a conversation.

6. Find common ground

Start by discovering what you both want. Take time to explore the benefit of working together. Ask yourselves what could be done easier, faster and with more fun if you had less tension and better collaboration. Discover shared goals.

7. Give benefit of doubt

Be willing to give others the benefit of the doubt. Communicate your assumption of positive intentions. Say ‘I know you care deeply about this organization, team or project. I believe you want this to work better for both of us.’ Assume good intentions.

8. Have compassion

Appreciate the humanness and vulnerability that underlies all negative behavior. Have compassion for yourself and others as you dig into problem areas. Recognize we are all human. Appreciate vulnerabilities.

9. Initiate new behavior

To improve the situation, you may need to learn a new skill. You might want to get better at listening, setting clear boundaries, or communicating your views without blame. Be willing to learn a new skill to enhance your effectiveness. Be open to learning.

10. Just get started

Don’t wait for the perfect moment to tackle a problem. Put together a simple plan and get started. Nothing positive happens if you stand on the sidelines and ponder what to do. Take a risk.

11. Keep considering options

When conflict starts, we tend to close down and limit our options. We think there’s only one solution. Get creative and open up to new possibilities and solutions. Find at least five good options before settling on one. Explore new ideas.

12. Listen to different perspective

Keep listening to the other person’s point of view. Don’t shut down or let the conversation become one-sided. Share your views and stay open to other people’s views. Take turns and rephrase what you hear. Keep listening.

13. Mend broken fences

Recognize when there’s a breach in the relationship. Take time to acknowledge and repair damaged relationships. Reach out. Apologize. Admit mistakes. Seek solutions. Make time to heal rifts. Fix what’s broken.

14. Negotiate best solution

Don’t settle for less. Keep exploring options. Keep talking about what’s important to you. Keep advocating what’s best for the whole. Keep looking for workable ideas. Try them out and change if they don’t work. Test out solutions.

15. Open up

It’s risky to say to a boss or colleague: ‘This isn’t working.’ Share your perspectives and views. Open up and talk about what’s not working and what could be better. Take the chance. Say what’s bothering you.

16. Practice makes perfect

Don’t expect a turnaround to happen overnight. It takes time and patience to transform a negative situation into a positive one. We rebuild trust and reopen channels of communication one step at a time. Practice new behavior.

17. Quit blaming others

Blame is destructive. It doesn’t solve anything. If you want to point out blame, remember four fingers are pointing at you. Replace blame with appreciation. Ask yourself: ‘What do I appreciate about this person?’ Express appreciation.

18. Revisit the past

We want to skip right to solutions – but it’s essential to revisit the past. Take time to go back and review what didn’t go right. Talk about the events that took place, share your views and perspectives about what took place. Acknowledge the past.

19. Share feelings

Conflicts arise when we feel discounted by someone else. Recognize your feelings and share them. Go beyond the feelings of anger and frustration and discover the deeper feelings of hurt and helplessness. Say how you feel.

20. Try a new approach

If you like to talk – listen. If you like to listen – talk. We are always better at either talking or listening. Yet both are required to resolve conflicts. Recognize which one you do most often and ramp up the other. Strike a balance.

21. Understand big picture

See the big picture. Let go of navel gazing, look up and see the bigger picture. Consider the needs of the larger group or organization. Get out of the muck and get perspective by taking a broader view. Look up and out.

22. Voice your opinion

Don’t duck and dodge. Express your point of view. Have opinions and perspectives and share them. Avoid the tendencies. Don’t think what you have to say is irrelevant, obvious or unimportant. Express your views.

23. Watch your attitude

Manage your attitude. Beware when you’re giving up, giving in, feeling sorry for yourself, blaming others or feeling helpless. Notice these reactions and move past them. Be responsible for attitude.

24. Letting go

Once you’ve addressed the issue and agreed upon solutions – let go and move on. Avoid the tendency to revisit past grievances and renew your angst about what happened. Be willing to forgive and forget. Forgive and move on.

25. Yield to the greater good

You won’t always get what you want. Be willing to compromise your personal agenda for the greater good. A willing spirit who wants to make things right – goes a long way towards solutions. Do what’s best for the whole.

26. Zap problems early

Anger and resentment are contagious. Don’t let problems and frustrations linger. Recognize tension early on and address them. Don’t assume things will get better. Acknowledge problems and bring them to your colleagues’ attention. Nip problems in the bud.

About the Author

Faith Ralston is an expert in leadership and team development and Chief Talent Officer of the Play to Your Strengths consulting group. Faith has 26 years of experience helping leaders improve performance and results. Learn more and sign up for her online newsletter at and email:

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