Recognizing and dealing with disputes in a rational, balanced and effective way.


People can experience conflict over many different things: data, opinions, decisions, money, rights, access to resources, power, positions, personal wants/needs, relationships, etc. Dealing with and resolving all these kinds of conflicts is more important and frequent than it has ever been before.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.Matthew 18:15-17

Skilled Characteristics

  • Courage

    Steps up to conflicts, seeing them as opportunities

  • Takes Action

    Reads situations quickly and takes action

  • Listener

    Good at focused, active listening

  • Mediator

    Can work out tough agreements and settle disputes equitably

  • Consensual

    Can find common ground and get cooperation among people with minimum problems

“It’s time for us to turn to each other, not on each other.”

– Jesse Jackson

Unskilled Characteristics

  • Conflict Averse

    Avoids conflict in situations and with people

  • Too Accommodating

    May accommodate too much, simply wanting everyone to get along

  • Reactionary

    May get upset as a reaction to conflict – takes conflict personally

  • Impatient

    Can not operate under conflict long enough to find a good outcome

  • 'Yes' Man

    Gives in and says ‘yes’ too soon – a people pleaser

  • Naive

    Gets into conflict by accident; doesn’t see it coming

  • Procrastinates

    Will let problems continue rather than deal with them directly

  • Avoider

    Will avoid problems, waiting for problems to hopefully go away on their own

  • Competitive

    May be excessively competitive and have to win every dispute

  • Overused

    May be seen as overly aggressive and assertive

  • Driver

    May drive for a solution before others are ready

“At the root of every tantrum and power struggle are unmet needs.”

– Marshall Rosenberg

Causes of Weakness

  • Fear of Conflict

    Fears or highly dislikes conflict – enough to avoid it at all costs

  • Lack Skills

    Lacks good listening and negotiation skills

  • Emotional

    Not able to control feelings in conflict situations

  • Slow

    Slow to catch on to what people are thinking and feeling

  • Overly Sensitive

    Takes things personally and is easily offended

“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.”

– Indira Gandhi


Review the simple application steps below and choose 1 or 2 things you can do to spur yourself on to further growth.

  • Cooperative

    COOPERATIVE RELATIONSHIPS: Developing cooperative relationships involves demonstrating real and perceived equity, with all people feeling understood and respected, and taking a problem-oriented point of view. To do this more: increase the realities and perceptions of fairness—don’t try to win every battle and take all the victory; focus on the common-ground issues and interests of both sides—find wins on both sides, give in on little points; avoid starting with rigid demands—show respect for others and their positions; and reduce any remaining conflicts to the smallest size possible.

  • Unnecessary

    AVOID UNNECESSARY CONFLICT: Language, words and timing set the tone and can cause unnecessary conflict. Give reasons first, solutions last. When you give solutions first, people often directly challenge the solutions instead of defining the problem. Pick words that are other-person neutral. Use words that are neutral and that do not sound one-sided. Pick tentative and hopeful words that give others a chance to respond and save face. Pick words that are about the problem and not the person. Avoid direct blaming remarks; describe the problem and its impact.

  • Stay Cool

    STAY COOL: Let the other side vent frustration, blow off steam, but don’t react. Listen. Nod. Ask clarifying questions. Ask open-ended questions like, ‘What could I do that would help the most?’ Restate their position periodically to signal you have understood. But don’t react. Keep them talking until they run out of negative things to say.

  • Minimize

    MINIMIZE THE CONFLICT: Start by looking to see what you agree on. Write them on the flip chart. Then write down the areas left open. Focus on common goals, priorities and problems. Keep the open conflicts as small as possible and concrete.

  • Too Emotional

    TOO EMOTIONAL: Consider what emotional reactions you have (such as impatience or non-verbals like your face turning red or quickly moving your pen or fingers). Learn to recognize those as soon as they start and substitute something more neutral. Most emotional responses to conflict come from personalizing the issue. Separate people issues from the problem at hand and deal with people issues separately and later if they persist. Always return to facts and the problem before the group; stay away from personal clashes. Try to see the situation through the other person’s eyes. How would you feel if you were them? Pause and collect yourself if you are feeling overly emotional. Count to 10 in your head, go to the bathroom, or request a 10-minute break.

  • Bargain

    BARGAIN: Learn to bargain. What does the person need that I have? What could I do for them outside this conflict that could allow them to give up something I need now in return? How can we turn this into a win for both of us?

  • Approach

    APPROACH TO CONFLICT: Always go directly to the person you are having a conflict with and speak with them personally. 1) State the facts of what happened. 2) State how that personally impacted you, others or the team, and/or how it made you feel. 3) State the need you have that was negatively affected in the situation (i.e. need for safety or freedom or respect, or being valued, or being understood). 4) Make a request of the person, asking them to do something differently in the future. 5) Allow the other person to respond, and allow them to go use this same approach with you as they state the problem from their perspective.

  • Arbitration

    ARBITRATION: If the conflict can not be solved, ask a neutral third party to assist with the conflict.

  • Preventative

    PREVENTATIVE CONFLICT: Are there certain types of people or situations where you tend to have more conflict? When does it happen, with whom, and what is commonly about? Determine the cause behind you having those repeating kinds of conflict. Once you have isolated the cause, mentally rehearse a better way of handling it when it comes up next time.