Conflict Resolution – Six Steps to Manage Disagreements

A man at the airport was very emotional, actually, quite livid. He was shouting about missing his plane because the monitors were wrong in giving the gate information. He was big, tall and angry as he ran up to the counter. My wife and I were sitting by one of our clients at an airport watching as he ran up to where two female agents stood behind the counter. He slammed his books down on the counter top and began furiously ranting about missing his flight. His voice loud, his body shaking, and his fists were clenched. The two women were obviously frightened. We could see them physically shrink from this aggressive man. They were in conflict.

I got up and began to walk the thirty feet into the scene. Within approximately thirty seconds after engaging with this man, he was calmed into dealing with the situation more rationally. Using the principles in this article a furious, ranting, rather childish man, in aggressive conflict with two ticket agents, was changed back into a rational adult, able to come to resolution over the conflict. What was the magic? The natural principles and laws that promote effective conflict resolution.

Unwanted Reality vs. True Conflict

Before we can effectively deal with conflict we need to determine if it is conflict or just, what we call, unwanted reality. Unwanted reality differs from conflict in that it is something that is unlikely to change. Or, if it does change, it takes a lot of time and energy from an upper leadership or management level. It’s possible to change them but change is unlikely in the near future. So it is simply unwanted reality. And dealing with an unwanted reality is different than dealing with conflict. We make hierarchical decisions throughout our life. Each decision, at each level of hierarchy, comes with parameters, limitations, and certain givens that are unwanted realities. In our seminars on conflict management we will ask people early on to estimate the type and amount of conflict that exists. The numbers are usually quite high. After a definition and discussion about unwanted reality, the numbers representing the amount of conflict present are much lower. The amount of true conflict that occurs from these same people’s perspective is relatively small when we weed out their necessary, but unwanted, reality.

So, how do you deal with unwanted reality? You accept it. Unless you are willing to take on the cause of changing corporate culture, you must accept the unwanted reality and put your energy into things that you can influence or change. When we’ve seen people do this there is an incredible freeing that occurs, an increase in energy, and greater ability to engage in conflict resolution. The reason is twofold: 1) People aren’t discouraged by repeatedly experiencing the lack of success when complaining about and trying change what is seen as conflict, but is really unwanted reality; and 2) There can be more focus on what can truly be changed or resolved, that which is true conflict.

What is Conflict is inevitable. When you find the concern behind the conflict, the person in conflict with you actually becomes your ally, working with you toward the greater good. Keep your emotions in check, find the core concern behind the conflict and use it as a learning opportunity to find a win/win for both people. These six steps will help you be get more effective in resolving a conflict: defuse emotion, listen and accept, get permission and speak, solicit agreement, work toward resolution, close and agree to let go.

Bill and Joann Truby
About the Author:

Bill and Joann Truby, are authors, consultants and speakers, who are focused on helping individuals achieve personal fulfillment and organizations increase their performance. They are the founders of Truby Achievements: