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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Carmichael

How to Build Conflict Resolution Skills: Case Studies and Examples - "Forage" Feature

Couples Solutions Center - Forage Feature Conflict Resolution Skills

Our founder, Kristyn Carmichael, was recently featured regarding how to build conflict resolution skills by Forage, the top website for bridging education and career success. As an adjunct professor and the Training Director for the Lodestar Dispute Resolution Center at Arizona State University College of Law, as well as a professional divorce and prenuptial mediator, she knows a thing or two about conflict resolution. See the full article HERE and a segment of her interview below:

How have you used conflict resolution skills in the workplace? Give a specific example, including the situation, action you took, and the result.

There are a variety of conflict resolution skills that can be used in the workplace, as well as every day life. The first step I like to teach communication. We tend to live in a time where we listen not to hear the other person, but to respond. This ultimately leads to miscommunication and conflict.

There are four parts to any communication - the message we intend to deliver, the message we actually send, the message the other person receives, and how they understand the message. This leaves a lot of space for misunderstandings and conflict. This - coupled with each person's unique conflict style - results in conflict such as employee-employer conflict, employee-employee conflict, conflict with customers, and more.

Conflict resolutions strategies or types are designated by the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. This defines five conflict types: avoid, compete, accommodate, collaborate, and compromise. Let's use a workplace conflict as an example - someone steals your lunch out of the fridge. An avoidant would likely see you stole their lunch and avoid the conversation all together. A competitive would likely argue with you that it is their lunch, even if they come to find that you both brought the exact same lunch and theirs is in the fridge. Accommodating likely feels bad for you and let's you have their lunch this one time. Collaborate and compromise is the ideal, where we work together to find a solution.

What types of conflict resolution skills have you found most helpful in your work? Give specific examples.

We have a three step process that we teach regarding resolving conflict - Listen, Respond, Resolve. First, we need to listen carefully as the other person shares their perspective, identifying the underlying issues rather than positions. A position is "I don't like working in a group with you." An interest is the underlying "why," such as the person fears you will overshadow their work or get credit for the work they do, they are nervous you will not put in work due to past experience, or they don't like you because you stole their lunch once (even on accident). We all have underlying interests for what we want. It is important to be an active listener and ask questions, and not become defensive or shut the other person down by shifting the conversation to yourself.

Then, we respond by addressing the specific issues raised and the other person's feelings. We don't have to agree with the other person to appreciate their candor and find resolution.

"Thank you for sharing with me that you don't want to be on this project with me because you have heard negative things about my work ethic from others who have worked with me and you don't think we will get along. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and understand why you may be nervous to work with me."

We want to avoid placing blame or avoiding the conflict. In this instance, we wouldn't want to blame fellow teammates on past projects, as this will likely make the other person you are speaking with feel unheard.

Finally, we want to work to find a resolution that works for everyone. This includes brainstorming solutions that address the other person's concerns, but can work for you as well. And always follow through on the determined resolution.

How can someone without work experience build conflict resolution skills?

Conflict happens everywhere, not just in the workplace. So it is helpful to test out these skills with family and friends. Additionally, there are many books and continued education you can take. As an example, Bill Eddy has written a number of great, applicable books on conflict resolution. And ASU For Everyone offers a conflict resolution course online.

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