Conflict Resolution


Conflict is Always With Us

CONFLICT is always with us and is no respecter of persons or organizations. It rears its head amongst individuals, families, companies, and businesses. Conflict is especially unavoidable in healthcare and human services-related fields. The long hours, stress, backbreaking work, and mountains of paperwork create a perfect storm of conflict. Since the potential for conflict is always around us, it’s paramount that we know its definition. Knowing the meaning of conflict will helps us to begin to understand IT! When we understand IT, hopefully we can learn how to handle IT —- even bringing negative situations to positive resolution!


The dictionary meanings are various, but we choose the following as comprehensive: Mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes for external or internal demands. CONFLICT can spur us on, or it can stop us short. Conflict is inevitable since everyone views life from a unique perspective; therefore, we must be reminded that conflict is neither bad nor good. It just is. When conflict is resolved well — everyone gains. However, when conflict is not resolved well, relationships can be damaged and even lost forever.

True Life Scenario

Let’s set the stage for a conflict “perfect storm”: Two individuals are assigned to a common project. One individual is brand new with deep passion and vision for a new project. She is the designated project leader though young and inexperienced. The other individual is middle aged and the manager of the organization that sponsors all projects. The manager has experience but little passion/vision for the new project, and he is only there to assist as needed. Nothing quite like this new project has been tried before, so all parties are in virgin territory. The potential for growth and effectiveness is enormous if only everyone stays on the same page. Along the way, however, several differences in the two individuals become obvious. The leader-older manager runs his department “by the book” — in other words, he needs guidelines and rules in order to function well. However, the young woman is passionate and feels the need for expediency to meet the needs of people around her. She wants to make a huge difference with her project. Unfortunately, it isn’t too long before tensions rise and the stage is set for CONFLICT.As the project progresses, the two clash in an epic battle. Feelings get hurt, egos are bruised, and the trajectory of the project is altered and derailed.

A Wake of Destruction

Unfortunately, all too often conflict leaves destruction in its wake, but what if we knew how to effectively resolve conflict? What would be the outcome if the two people were able to effectively resolve their conflict and move forward while trusting, respecting, and valuing the other individual? What if individuals acted in a manner of humility to work toward a common goal while preserving the relationship?

Conflict Resolution is Possible

Effective conflict resolution is possible if all parties follow the 4 basic principles of identifying roles, following the trust cycle, finding the need, and valuing others? In our course on effective conflict resolution, Danny Silk, MSW highlights the importance of these principles. Let’s briefly discuss them here.

Identifying Roles:
In any conflict resolution process, there must be a speaker and a listener. The Great Communication Peril occurs when there are two speakers.

The Trust Cycle:
Following the trust cycle is critical in order to build trust. Once trust is established, individuals feel safe, comforted, and valued. The 5 phases of the trust cycle are Need, Need Expressed, Response to Need, Need Satisfied, Comfort.

Finding the Need:
Finding out what another individual needs is a simple and powerful way to get at root issues that may be perpetuating conflict.

Valuing Others:
Valuing others and respecting them as individuals must always be at the forefront of our minds when working to resolve conflict. If we lack this essential piece, then Effective Conflict Resolution will never occur.

Our workplaces are hard and stressful enough without adding the stress of conflict. Unresolved conflict can fester and disrupt every aspect of an individual’s life. It is up to us to help institute the principles of effective conflict resolution so that we can feel safe. When we feel safe, we will be able to blossom and grow as individuals so that we can be successful personally and professionally. Success is not about accomplishments but about relationships.

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