How to Resolve Interpersonal Conflict

Now we know the two types of conflict and that we should avoid affective conflict by keeping emotion out of it. Here are four methods in creating an environment conducive to cognitive conflict and keeping conflict constructive.

(1) Empathy
Show empathy for the other people’s idea before you oppose it. Try to remain positive when others question your ideas, but don’t reciprocate the empathy. Remember that such questioning is a necessary part of the critical thinking process. e.g. I understand why you …. but

(2) Focus on the issue, not the person.
Be careful to avoid personal criticism, sarcasm, and blame, even if the other person does not do the same. Instead, communicate a willingness to understand, and stick to the problem being discussed.

(3) Focus on interests, and not your position.
It is easy to react aggressively when you are being challenged. But if you are more concerned about whether you are winning or losing, you forget what you initially wanted to achieve.

(4) Focus on the future, not the past.
Resist the temptation to use past behaviors, incidents, or problems to prove your point, unless there is something positive to be learned from them, or an aspect that can be applied in this new situation. e.g. I think there should be some kind of contingency plan in the future for cases like this.

These four methods are so wonderfully useful for parents, too.

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