Resolve to Resolve Conflict

Top Ten Keys to Effective Interpersonal Conflict Resolution

By Ron Blue

James Autry, in his book, Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership, writes that “conflict is not bad and it is not destructive…conflict is not good and not constructive.  Conflict becomes good or bad to the extent that it either becomes growth and learning or hostility and failure.  You, as manager, determine which it will be.”

So many morale issues found in our practices can be traced to ineffective interpersonal communication and, more specifically, the inability to resolve interpersonal conflict.  Listed are some ways to transform conflict into growth and learning.

  1. Resolve conflicts quickly.  Don’t assume if you ignore it, it will go away.  The longer you wait to talk to someone, the harder it becomes.
  2. Only take your concern or problem to the person who can directly influence a solution to that concern (i.e., go to the source, not the grapevine).  If someone comes to you with gossip, let them know you are not interested in hearsay and/or encourage the perpetrator to directly resolve the issue.
  3. Defend those not in your presence (i.e., don’t let others come to you with gossip about someone else).  Also, remember, people who gossip about others in your presence are most likely gossiping about you in your absence.
  4. When you do approach someone directly about a personal gripe, difference in opinion, personality issue, etc., enter the conversation with a win-win attitude and presumption of goodwill.  Make it “carefrontational” instead of confrontational.  For example, “I would like to talk to you about an issue we don’t seem to agree on.  It’s important that we come to an understanding that we both feel good about.  The issue I’m concerned about relates to…”  And, remember, it’s okay to agree to disagree agreeably.
  5. Conflicts generally are based on principal (substantive) or “turf” (non-substantive).  You must rise above the “turf” and work hard to resolve the conflicts based on principal by striving to find a compromise.
  6. If you are on the receiving end of someone attempting to bring a conflict to your attention, don’t take it personally.  See it as an opportunity to improve.
  7. When approaching someone in an effort to resolve a conflict…always separate the person from the behavior.  Personal attacks are never effective or appropriate.
  8. If you can’t resolve an interpersonal conflict, involve your coordinator or the Administrator.  And, remember, the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be.
  9. To prevent conflict, value the differences.  It’s not the way some are that matters nearly as much as what they do.  Diversity is necessary to build strong teams.  A basketball team with all seven-footers stands a poor chance of winning many games.  Without differences, there can be no synergy.
  10. To further prevent conflict, focus on the good in people.  “You can’t mine for gold without running into some dirt.”  No one is perfect, we all have weaknesses and shortcomings.  So, stay focused on the gold, not the dirt.