How to Resolve Conflict with 3 Questions

Posted:  Feb 1, 2021

How to Resolve Conflict with 3 Questions


Disagreements are an inevitable fact of life. While most people prefer to avoid uncomfortable conflicts of interest, not all conflicts are harmful. Indeed, going through the resolution process of a conflict can significantly improve relationships and communication skills in all areas of life.

While disputes may cause tension and stress in our daily lives, resolving them gives us confidence and improved coping strategies. Regardless of whether the conflict is with an employer, a spouse, or a business associate, here’s how to resolve conflict with 3 questions.


1.    ASK: What do you want?

When in conflict with another person, both individuals should make it a priority to clarify exactly what it is he or she wants. This is a better step than immediately declaring what you don’t want or assigning blame to the other person. By asking ‘What do you want?’ you’re building a more constructive pathway toward a preferred outcome. This also encourages everyone involved to articulate his or her wants or needs. This typically leads to a positive action to take. For instance, “Bob, how would you prefer your employees to give more feedback in meetings as opposed to sitting in silence?” Bob may consider this question, then come up with a solution. “I would like my employees to come to meetings prepared with one or two questions about the current topic or concerns to discuss.”

2.    ASK: Why is that important to you?

Quite often, disagreements occur between two people simply because they don’t understand the deeper meaning behind people’s actions. While one individual complains bitterly and blames the other for an action he or she took, the other individual may feel their action makes complete sense under the circumstances. For instance, after someone understands that a business owner has been betrayed in the past by a business partner, his or her seeming mistrust and caution may begin to make sense. When we see where the other person is coming from, we may behave with more patience and understanding going forward. 

3.    ASK: Do you mean to say that…?

Repeating what someone just said back to them, but in your own words, makes them feel heard. This is known as paraphrasing and is generally used to gain clarity. When someone feels the other person is genuinely listening to his or her concerns or fears, he or she is more apt to relax into a calm discussion. Clarity is necessary for each person to hear the other’s message. Understanding leads to conflict resolution. Eventually, a better rapport will guide everyone closer to a solution that works for both parties.

No one said resolution work would be easy, but it can most definitely lead to a mutually satisfying conclusion. Instead of making broad assumptions and assertions, ask these three important questions. No one can come up with a better solution to a conflict than the individuals involved.

Our staff at Stevens & Company Law Corporation believes that mediation is an excellent pathway to resolving conflicts. We can help you forge solutions to your challenges. Contact our office on Vancouver Island today to find out how.


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