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5 ways to resolve a conflict effectively

5 ways to resolve a conflict effectively

November 27, 2021

The ways to resolve a conflict effectively can vary according to how the very notion of conflict is understood. They may also vary according to the specific context in which it occurs. For example, a strategy applied to resolve a conflict in the family may not be effective, but it may be effective in resolving a conflict within an organization.

However, the social sciences have offered us different guidelines to generate resolution strategies that are more or less applicable for different contexts. Next we will see a brief definition of conflict offered by psychology; followed by 5 Ways to resolve a conflict effectively that some experts have proposed in theories of conflict and negotiation.


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What is a conflict?

The organizational psychologist Mary Parket Follet (ct in Domínguez Bilbao and García Dauder, 2005) defines conflict as the result of a difference, which is, in turn, an interaction of desires. Beyond the ethical prejudice (regardless of whether the conflict is good or bad), it is about the appearance of a difference of opinions and interests.

According to Domínguez Bilbao and García Dauder (2005), the understanding of the conflict has had different facets throughout its history. Previously, it was understood and treated as a negative element, and therefore, something that had to be avoided. From there, the causality of the conflict was understood from dysfunctional elements , which were later translated into individual, group or communication behaviors and situations.


Subsequently, the conflict was thought from its benefits, that is, from its possible advantages. Since then the conflict has been assumed as an inevitable element within groups and organizations ; not necessarily negative, but as another opportunity to broaden the horizons of interaction and management.

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5 strategies to solve a conflict effectively

Theories about conflict and negotiation have developed in an important way in psychology, especially impacting the scope of organizations, but also other areas where interpersonal relationships are analyzed.

In the 1981s, American experts in conflict resolution and negotiation, William Ury, Roger Fisher and Bruce Patton, published a book called Get the yes. In this, they described 5 ways to resolve a conflict effectively, through negotiation. These forms are still valid to this day and may have application in different contexts . Next we describe them.


1. People are not the problem

The conflict has effects at the level of individual experiences, that is, it involves emotions, values ​​and points of view. In many cases this is forgotten or is not prioritized because we focus more on organizational interests. In this case, the authors explain that effective negotiation begins by separating people from the problem , that is, analyze the problem independently of who we attribute responsibility for it.

To do that, they recommend us to think that conflicts have their roots in one of the following three dimensions: perception, emotion or communication . Recognize the latter to remain empathetic to others; not to place responsibility for the conflict on other people, and to avoid emotionally explosive reactions. Likewise, it can help us stay focused on our interests so that we do not give up more than is appropriate.

2. The main interests are

In line with the above, the authors tell us that behind the positions that people assume before a conflict, there are a series of interests that motivate us, and sometimes they hide.

If instead of standing firm in the positions we are concerned with exploring the interests behind, we will most likely find that there are both shared needs and interests, and shareable . In turn, the latter allows us to reach an effective negotiation.

In a nutshell, given that conflict is above all a confrontation of different interests, it is important to focus on these, rather than on the positions we assume individually.

3. Seek mutual benefit

Another of the principles of conflict resolution and negotiation is to generate options for mutual benefit. It usually happens that during a conflict situation, it is thought that there is no way for everyone to benefit from the final decision.

This hinders the negotiation process, and in general terms occurs through four quite frequent obstacles: making premature judgments; look for unique answers; think that the conflict has a fixed form; and to think that the solution to the problem is the problem itself. The authors explain that Through an empathic attitude we can look for a mutual benefit . That is, we can offer negotiation options that favor all parties at least partially.

4. Prioritize objective criteria

The authors recommend that we remain insistent that objective criteria be used from the beginning of the negotiation. That is to say, without disregarding empathy and "win-win", we have to be realistic and assume that Sometimes there will be differences that are only reconcilable under very high costs , at least for some of the parties. With which, in this case, the negotiation has to be carried out on independent bases to the wills of those involved.

5. Take into account power relations

Finally, the authors explain that the effective resolution of conflicts may be unlikely in cases where influence, power and authority are deposited in only one of the interested parties. In this case, the negotiation is to try not to agree something that goes totally against our principles or interests, and try to make the most of the agreements and final decisions, even if they are taken unilaterally.

Bibliographic references:

  • Domínguez Bilbao, R. and García Dauder, S. (2005). Constructive conflict and integration in the work of Mary Parket Follet. Athenea Digital, 7: 1-28.
  • Leader Summaries (2003-2018). Summary of the book "Get the yes, the art of negotiating without giving in". Library of business books summarized. Retrieved July 6, 2018. Available at //www.leadersummaries.com/ver-resumen/obtenga-el-si.

5 Keys to Effective Conflict Resolution: Customer Service Training 101 (November 2021).


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