Occasional conflicts are natural aspects of workplace relationships. They arise when people have different styles, opinions, or objectives. Knowing how to navigate conflicts effectively can help you improve your collaboration skills and build stronger relationships. In this article, we define conflict resolution skills and provide examples. We also describe how to apply conflict resolution skills and tips for developing these qualities.
What are conflict resolution skills?
Conflict resolution skills refer to the ability to address differences and find common ground for disputes. Employers typically consider these skills as leadership qualities and value candidates who can build consensus quickly. Having strong conflict resolution skills can also help to maintain workplace morale and prevent disruptions in productivity.
Other reasons why conflict resolution skills are important include:
- They promote effective communication
- They help with stress management
- They enhance job satisfaction
Examples of conflict resolution skills
You may resolve workplace conflicts formally or informally. Here are essential skills you need to navigate conflicts successfully:
Knowing how to express yourself verbally and non-verbally is important when dealing with conflicts. Effective communication means speaking clearly during conflicts to avoid further misunderstandings.
Actively listening is the ability to focus on a speaker, understand their message or information, and respond appropriately. It involves using verbal and non-verbal cues to show a speaker they have your attention.
Before resolving a conflict, you must first understand its nature, which requires active listening. For example, if you're trying to resolve a conflict with a supervisor who overlooks your strategies, start by expressing yourself and actively listening to their concerns.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand your emotions and those of others. Being emotionally aware involves connecting with your feelings.
During conflict resolution, exhibiting emotional intelligence helps you gain the insights you need to find effective solutions. For example, understanding a client's feelings can help you decide on the best way to handle their return request.
Read more: A Guide to Personal Skills
Mediation skills describe your ability to act as a neutral party in finding a solution to conflicts. A mediator may be a trained professional or someone outside the conflict. Having mediation skills is important for providing an objective view of situations. Acting as a mediator is a great way to help your colleagues with conflict resolution, so you can get back to working as a cohesive team.
Facilitation skills describe your ability to provide opportunities and resources for people to work effectively. These skills focus on allowing everyone to contribute instead of being only an outspoken leader.
You can use facilitation skills to organize conducive environments to resolve conflicts. For example, a supervisor who coordinates three groups might bring these groups to a private setting to find a solution to their disagreement.
Problem-solving and critical thinking
Problem-solving skills help you determine effective solutions to problems after determining their source. In comparison, critical thinking is the ability to observe and analyze situations thoroughly and objectively. During conflict resolution, problem-solving and critical thinking skills can help you identify compromise areas between parties.
When resolving conflicts, being assertive means seeking out the next steps instead of waiting for someone else to take action. For example, if a coworker upsets you, be assertive by addressing the issue as soon as possible. A manager or supervisor could also be assertive by resolving conflicts before they affect the team's productivity.
How to apply conflict resolution skills step by step
Follow these steps to resolve conflicts and apply your conflict resolution skills:
1. Stay calm and use open body language
Take deep breaths to relax before approaching tense situations. Open body language can help you stay calm. Consider sitting instead of standing, and placing both feet on the floor. Ensure you maintain eye contact and keep both arms at your sides.
2. Find a comfortable, private place
Resolving conflicts in open spaces may limit your ability to reach a decision and distract others. Consider working on the issue in private and ensuring everyone gets equal seating.
3. Acknowledge the problem
The first step in conflict resolution is for all parties to agree that there's a problem. Share what you think about the situation before asking others for their opinion. Ensure you use the first person when speaking. For example, you may start by saying, "I feel you don't understand my working style."
Create a safe space and avoid pointing blame. Allow concerned parties to express themselves.
4. Agree to find a solution
After addressing the problem, everyone needs to agree that a suitable solution is necessary. If you notice someone is reluctant, consider taking them aside and trying to understand their reason. Then, explain the importance of finding common ground to the problem.
5. Understand everyone's perspective
Most workplace conflicts are because of misunderstandings. During conflict-resolution sessions, take time to understand the concerned party's views before brainstorming a solution.
6. Note what triggered the conflict
Various factors lead to conflict. For example, fatigue, hunger, and strict deadlines can lead to a heightened emotional state, igniting conflict. Learning conflict triggers can help you resolve conflicts and prevent them from recurring.
7. Agree on a resolution plan
After noting the factors that can lead to conflicts, decide on a resolution plan that involves and benefits everyone. For example, if someone feels you don't understand their working style, a good resolution plan may include compromise or role adjustments.
8. Follow through on the plan
Following through on resolution plans is key. Set milestones or expectations to ensure everyone is on board with the plan. Involve a human resources professional, such as an employee relations officer, if you notice the conflict continues or some parties don't keep to the collective agreement.
5 tips to help you resolve conflicts
Use these tips to resolve workplace conflicts:
1. Remember why the relationship is important
While conflicts may seem challenging to deal with, remembering the good times can help you resolve them effectively. Think of how you related with the other party before the conflict, and use that headspace to help you reach a mutually beneficial solution. For example, if you had a dispute with a new hire, recall how you felt welcoming when they joined the team. Then use those emotions during conflict-resolution sessions.
2. Focus on the current conflict and not previous ones
Try not to bring up past conflicts you had with the other party during discussions. Instead, stick to addressing the dispute you currently have.
Consider using the 48-hour rule when managing conflicts. The 48-hour rule states you should reach out and ask to discuss a conflict or something that bothers you within 48 hours after it happens.
3. Pay attention to nonverbal communication
While it's important for everyone to express themselves verbally, look for nonverbal cues, such as body language. For example, if someone says they're fine with a resolution plan, you can tell they're not if they roll their eyes shortly after.
If you know that the other is uncomfortable with a solution, strategy, or location, consider offering another option or asking their opinion.
4. Maintain a calm tone
Conflict resolution sessions may be tense for all parties involved. Ensure your tone is professional and keep your emotions in check. Maintaining a calm tone helps to manage stressful aspects of conflict resolution.
5. Use humour where appropriate
Humour can lighten the mood during conflict resolution. It's also a way to make everyone comfortable discussing the problem. However, ensure you only use humour during conflicts that aren't personal. A sensitive joke can lead to tense situations and escalate the issue.
Tips for developing conflict resolution skills
Follow these tips to improve your conflict resolution skills:
Enroll in a workshop on conflict resolution
Sign up for a workshop to learn strategies for conflict resolution and team management. Consider taking online courses and networking with experienced professionals who can help you develop your conflict resolution skills. Practicing resolution skills by working through situational examples is a great way to hone your skills.
Engage in role-playing exercises
Have a friend, mentor, or career coach practice with you. Role-playing is effective because it allows you to see things from another perspective. It helps you develop your emotional intelligence and become more empathetic towards your colleagues.
Ask for feedback
Request feedback after a conflict resolution process to identify aspects to improve. For example, you can ask your supervisor for feedback on how you resolved a situation.