Conflict Resolution Strategy & Steps

Conflict resolution is the process of finding a resolution to a dispute that satisfies all parties involved while also ideally avoiding things like physical violence, name-calling, and any other behavior that might be seen as disrespectful. It is a wonderful and magical thing, and not necessarily always easy. There are, however, some tried and true strategies that are incredibly helpful when it comes to conflict resolution. Nonviolent communication, or NVC, is a tool that employs conflict resolution strategies, and there are even steps one can follow to more confidently attempt resolving a conflict.

Here are the steps:

  1. Cool yourself down. If you are in your own conflict, it is likely that you probably have some emotional charge around the situation. The key here is to get to a place in which you are calm and open enough to truly hear what the other party/parties have to say. There are many NVC tools to do this: you can give yourself empathy, you can get empathy from a third party, or you can do some deeper processing if need be like enemy-image processing or 3-chair mediation. The goal here is to find support elsewhere (if possible) so that you can be emotionally resourced to face your conflict with a clear head and open heart. Additionally, you’ll want to become very clear on what your needs are regarding the conflict so that when the time comes, you will be able to advocate for them.
  2. Listen and lean in with curiosity. Start to truly and fully listen to the other parties involved in the conflict. Get curious about what is alive in them around the situation. Just like in your own processing, try to find clarity on their needs. Give them empathy. Listen with presence. Maybe try reflecting what they are sharing. And take some verbal guesses to what their needs are. Keep guessing until you all know what needs are not being met by the conflict.
  3. Express with respect and care. After you have given the other party/parties empathy, you can make a connecting request and see if they are willing to hear you. If they are, express in a way that holds emotional safety for all. This means no blame, and no judgments! Instead, try using NVC’s template of observations, feelings, and needs. You should already know what these are from the work and processing you did in step one.
  4. Make a request. Finally, after you have heard and named their needs, and you have expressed your own, you can start to come up with solutions. Your request might be clear already, or maybe you ask for the other party’s input as well. The key here is that you are keeping everyone’s needs in mind when coming up with strategies to resolve the conflict. This is the part that most people falter on. They get stuck on the strategy level instead of focusing on needs. Remember, if you come up with a strategy and the other party doesn’t agree to it, that just means there is a need that is not being met for them by that strategy… and that is okay! You just go back to the drawing board and try to come up with another strategy that meets everyone’s needs.

As always, I want to make note that while I’ve provided a succinct list of steps for resolving conflicts, this may prove to be more complex in practice than it looks here. Each one of these steps involves quite a bit of emotional awareness, intentionality, and work. If you’d like more support on your conflict resolution journey, consider The Bigbie Method’s Intro to Nonviolent Communication Course. In it, you’ll learn about all the steps listed above and so much more.