Career Advice

Conflict Resolution Skills (and Workplace Applications)

Conflict is a quarrel or conflict that can happen in a variety of situations and environments, including the workplace. It’s critical to comprehend how to negotiate and settle conflicts.

You’ll frequently need to read nonverbal and vocal communication cues, maintain composure and emotional control, and attempt to comprehend the positions of the disputing parties if you want to successfully resolve conflicts.

In this post, we examine workplace conflict examples, seven unique conflict resolution skills that can de-escalate a situation, and how to resolve a conflict in ten simple stages.

What exactly is conflict resolution?

When several parties have divergent goals, viewpoints, or behavioral preferences, conflicts may occasionally occur at work. The art of handling disagreements and finding an understanding that allows everyone to cooperate harmoniously is called conflict resolution.

Sometimes the person who settles a dispute may be a third party or mediator, while on other occasions they may be a party to the dispute who uses an objective viewpoint to address the issue.

What are conflict resolution skills?

Conflict resolution skills refer to the abilities and techniques used to manage and resolve conflicts or disagreements constructively and effectively. These skills are essential in various personal, professional, and social settings to maintain healthy relationships, promote cooperation, and achieve positive outcomes. Here are some key conflict resolution skills:

  • Effective Communication: Clear and open communication is the foundation of conflict resolution skills. It involves expressing your thoughts and concerns in a way that the other party can understand. Using “I” statements, such as “I feel” or, “I think,” helps you communicate your perspective without sounding accusatory. Active listening is equally important; it means giving your full attention to the speaker, asking clarifying questions, and paraphrasing what you’ve heard to ensure you’ve understood correctly.
  • Active Listening: Active listening goes beyond hearing words; it involves showing genuine interest in the speaker’s message and emotions. This skill requires you to focus entirely on the speaker without interrupting, while also observing their non-verbal cues, such as body language and tone of voice. Active listening helps build trust, demonstrates respect, and enables a deeper understanding of the underlying issues.
  • Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It involves putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, acknowledging their emotions, and showing that you care. By expressing empathy, you create a safe and supportive environment where the other party feels valued, which can reduce defensiveness and encourage open dialogue.
  • Problem-Solving: Conflict resolution skills aim to find mutually agreeable solutions to underlying problems. Effective problem-solving involves identifying the root causes of the conflict, brainstorming potential solutions, and evaluating the pros and cons of each option. The goal is to arrive at a solution that addresses the core issues while considering the interests of all parties involved.
  • Negotiation Skills: Negotiation is about finding a middle ground and compromising to reach an agreement that satisfies both parties needs. Skilled negotiators can balance their interests while also recognizing and accommodating the other party’s concerns. Successful negotiation often requires flexibility, creativity, and a willingness to explore various alternatives.
  • Emotional Regulation: During a conflict, emotions can run high, which may lead to irrational behavior and communication breakdowns. Emotional regulation involves managing your own emotions, staying composed, and avoiding impulsive reactions. When you can maintain your emotional balance, you’re better equipped to engage in productive discussions and prevent conflict from escalating.
  • Assertiveness: Being assertive means expressing your needs, opinions, and boundaries clearly and respectfully. It’s important to communicate your point of view without being overly aggressive or passive. Effective assertiveness demonstrates confidence and self-assurance, while also showing consideration for the other party’s perspective.
  • Respect for Diversity: Conflicts often arise due to differences in opinions, values, and backgrounds. Respecting diversity means acknowledging and appreciating these differences, rather than attempting to impose one’s viewpoint. Embracing diversity in a conflict resolution process can lead to richer discussions and more comprehensive solutions.
  • Conflict Analysis: Before attempting to resolve a conflict, it’s helpful to analyze the situation and identify the underlying causes. This might involve considering factors such as miscommunication, differing expectations, or resource limitations. By addressing the root causes, you can prevent future conflicts and develop more effective solutions.
  • Mediation: Mediation involves involving a neutral third party to facilitate the resolution process. A mediator helps guide the discussion, ensures that both parties have a chance to voice their concerns, and assists in finding common ground. Mediation can be especially useful when emotions are heightened and communication has broken down.
  • Timing: Choosing the right time and place to address a conflict can impact the outcome. It’s advisable to wait until emotions have calmed down before discussing sensitive issues. A private and neutral environment can encourage open and honest communication.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration emphasizes working together with the other party to find solutions. This approach fosters a sense of teamwork and shared responsibility, leading to outcomes that both parties can support. Collaboration encourages active engagement and commitment to the resolution process.
  • Apology and Forgiveness: In some cases, conflicts can be resolved by acknowledging mistakes and offering apologies. Apologies demonstrate humility and a willingness to take responsibility for one’s actions. Forgiveness, on the other hand, involves letting go of negative feelings and moving forward. Both apology and forgiveness contribute to repairing relationships.

Mastering these conflict resolution skills can help individuals navigate challenging situations with confidence, empathy, and a focus on achieving positive outcomes for all parties involved. Whether in personal relationships or professional settings, these skills contribute to effective communication, better understanding, and sustainable resolutions.

The ability to mediate conflicts

Conflict resolution skills are frequently regarded as leadership qualities. Many companies value the contributions of people who can recognize conflicts, determine their root causes, respect divergent viewpoints, and forge a compromise. They increase the likelihood that differences of opinion will be put aside so that work can proceed.

Skills in conflict resolution

Here are seven conflict resolution skills for resolving disputes at work:

1. Listening actively

The management and resolution of conflict depend greatly on active listening. By carefully listening, an employee can grasp the source of a complaint and determine what to do about it if a coworker approaches them about how their behavior is disruptive.

2. Action bias

A bias for action entails actively finding out the next steps as opposed to passively waiting for another person to take action. This could appear in conflict resolution skills as a colleague aggressively wanting to fix any issues, they may have caused with another person as soon as possible after becoming aware that they may have offended them.

A manager might also become aware of a disagreement and intervene to end it before it has a chance to fester.

3. Changing your perspective

The capacity for perspective-taking is the capacity to appreciate another person’s viewpoint. “What are their ideas, triggers, and observations?” is a question you might ask yourself. For instance, a customer might contact customer service if they are unsure how to utilize the company’s product.

Even if the customer care representative who answers the call is well aware of how to utilize the product, they might still benefit from knowing the client’s difficulty. These discussions may help identify areas where product design or training needs to be improved.

4. Resolving issues

Your ability to solve problems effectively depends on your ability to identify their causes. A manager may use their problem-solving abilities to find points of agreement between two opposing team members during conflict resolution.

5. Responsibility

To resolve conflicts, it’s crucial to have the power to hold people accountable for their actions. An HR representative might need to follow up a few days after an agreement is struck, for instance, to ensure everybody is still on the same wavelength.

6. Facilitation

You may set up your immediate environment to facilitate dispute resolution. To resolve differences over a shared project, for instance, a manager in charge of two distinct groups could bring those groups together in a pleasant conference room. Giving people time and space to talk can help the argument end quickly.

7. Mediation

When a problem is resolved through mediation, a third party who is impartial is involved. A skilled expert, a representative of a different organization (such as HR), or a third party with no stake in the outcome of the dispute but who may offer an unbiased viewpoint can all serve as mediators.

A competent mediator can summarize what they’re hearing and seeing to show progress and agreement, alongside all the other talents listed below.

Examples of workplace conflict

You can run into a disagreement at work with a colleague, manager, vendor, customer, or client. When a dispute emerges, adopting conflict resolution skills like those mentioned above, like mediation and listening actively, can assist in defusing the circumstance and bringing about a conclusion.

Here are a few examples of typical office conflicts:

Coworker disputes

Coworker disputes may result from dissimilar work habits or styles. They may also result from cultural as well as individual prejudices:

Example 1

The common refrigerator in the lunch room is regularly cleaned out by Jessica. She accidentally discards Peter’s leftovers one day. Peter snaps at Jessica when he realizes his lunch is missing the following day.

She replies that he ought to have designated his meal. Both of them feel irritated after this exchange: Peter thinks no one cares about his stuff, while Jessica feels undervalued for the labor, she performs to clean the office.

Example 2

A new project is given to John and Elias. Elias has more time to spare, while John already has a heavy schedule. John skips a few of the meetings and neglects a number of the chores that were assigned to him because he thinks Elias will take the lead.

Elias, in contrast, is unaware of John’s current workload and takes his lack of action as laziness. Elias starts shouting criticism at John in public locations. These concerns are overheard by John, adding to his already high level of work stress.

Supervisor-supervisee conflict

The inherent power disparity between supervisors and the people they report to might make it challenging to mediate disputes between them.

Example 1

Anita is a sales manager who frequently steps in to support her team members during trying times. Some individuals have said they like this, but others have criticized her for being too involved and micromanaging. A couple of members of her staff complain about her managerial style to HR.

Example 2

Kevin is a direct leader who enjoys interacting with loud and outgoing people in social situations. Tom, a teammate, on the other hand, is more reserved and prefers to communicate in private or through writing. Tom confides in Kevin that they feel disheartened and are exploring new career opportunities after numerous of their suggestions were rejected during strategy discussions.

Conflicts between customers and service providers

Conflicts between suppliers and their clients or consumers can frequently result from imprecise expectations or communication:

Example 1

Sandra orders a present for her daughter online over the holiday season. After placing the order, she gets an email alerting her that the product she ordered is out of stock. Disgusted that she won’t receive the gift in time for the holiday, she calls customer support.

Example 2

The website of Caroline’s company is being updated. To construct a new website, she is collaborating with a design firm. She knew that part of the project fee was finding photos for the website, but the agency thought her team would handle that part of the job. Caroline says she is going to have to lower the price of the payment because she is so angry.

When a conflict necessitates the use of HR

It’s important to remember that bias, discrimination, bullying, and harassment can all play a role in some situations. Conflicts of this nature can affect an individual permanently. While using conflict resolution skills can also be helpful in certain circumstances, this kind of behavior must be recorded and dealt with on a more serious level.

Consider speaking with your human resources department if you are involved in or seeing this type of disagreement at work.

How to Resolve a Conflict in Ten Steps

You can use the following steps to settle a variety of disputes at work:

1. Remain composed and, if necessary, take a break.

To begin the process of resolving a quarrel, it can be beneficial to take a few deep breaths. You can also relax by drawing your shoulders back and sitting down rather than standing. Instead of crossing them, both feet might be put on the ground. Instead of crossing your arms or moving them, keep them open and by your sides.

2. Locate a quiet, welcoming location to talk about the issue.

Others may become distracted by disputes as well as the resolution of disputes. Locate a private space where you can work on the issue. Equitable seating arrangements should be made for those taking part in the conflict settlement. Think about providing water during the chat.

3. Accept there is an issue.

It is beneficial for everyone involved to initially acknowledge that there is an issue to have the best opportunity of having a fruitful talk. Start the conflict-resolution process by calmly outlining your perspective on the issue at hand and inviting the other party or parties to elaborate.

It’s crucial to utilize “I” statements rather than “You don’t pay attention to my ideas,” for example, “I have the feeling my ideas aren’t valued.” Create a space where everyone may freely express their opinions, rather than placing the blame for the conflict on a specific person.

4. Agree to agree.

After the issue has been identified, everyone must agree that a solution is necessary. If you’re resolving a dispute and one party is reluctant to join in the resolution process, you might want to speak with them privately to better understand their position and how you can persuade them to participate.

5. Attempt to understand everybody’s point of view.

The majority of confrontations at work do not involve malicious intent. Instead, misunderstandings are the primary cause of most conflicts. It can be simpler to settle a dispute if you use the conflict resolution skill of listening actively and taking the time to listen and comprehend your coworkers’ experiences.

(There are instances where individuals deliberately strive to start a fight. HR might have to get engaged sooner in certain situations.)

6. Consider what caused the conflict.

Conflict may have resulted from several unidentified stressors on people. Conflict can be sparked by a variety of factors, including deadlines, fatigue, family, health, hunger, burnout, and others. It can be helpful to negotiate or avoid a dispute that might arise in the future if you are aware of the triggers and pressures of the other parties involved.

7. Look for areas where a compromise might be possible.

Most disputes require at least one party to accept a compromise to be resolved. At this point in the resolution, the ability to put aside ego or stubbornness is crucial. If all sides can find a way to compromise in some manner, the outcome will feel the best for everyone concerned.

8. Come up with a resolution strategy.

At this stage, everyone should ideally be thinking about how they have contributed to the problem and what they can do to fix it. Before you stop talking, try to come up with a strategy for resolving the issue that includes actions for each party.

To prevent the same disagreement from developing again, the resolution strategy could involve an apology and behavior modifications. The manager could schedule a 1:1 meeting to listen to suggestions the employee has recorded throughout the week, for instance, if the staff feels like their thoughts have been overlooked by their management.

9. Check in to ensure that the agreement is permanent.

In resolving disputes, action must be taken. Even if the conversation went well, its meaning will be lost if the settlement plan is not carried out. Establishing a check-in point to review how everybody is feeling and make sure that everybody is adhering to the agreed-upon plan in a couple of weeks or days will help set expectations.

10. If the conflict persists, involve HR or a different party.

The conflict should be resolved if the aforementioned stages are followed and conflict resolution skills are used. Nevertheless, there may be instances where several parties don’t work together or the dispute worsens. It is best to consult HR or higher-level leadership in this circumstance.

Conflict resolution skills on a resume

Be prepared to give examples of how you’ve handled disagreements in the past if you’re applying for or interviewing for a position that demands conflict resolution skills. Make sure to list these examples in the areas of talents and work experience on your CV. To be prepared to respond to interview questions about conflict resolution, practice speaking aloud about the subject.


In conclusion, honing effective conflict resolution skills is a cornerstone of fostering harmonious relationships and achieving productive outcomes. These skills, encompassing communication, empathy, problem-solving, and more, empower individuals to navigate disagreements constructively. In the workplace, these abilities are invaluable. They promote a cooperative and inclusive environment, enhance team collaboration, and bolster overall organizational success. By cultivating these skills and applying them adeptly, individuals contribute to a healthier and more cohesive workplace, where diverse perspectives are respected, conflicts are transformed into opportunities, and shared goals are pursued with unity and vigor.

Frequently Asked Questions About Conflict Resolution Skills

  • What do you do when you can’t agree?

Try creative problem-solving to come up with a win-win solution if you’re having trouble coming up with an answer that will satisfy both parties. It’s uncommon for either party to completely give up their wishes, so coming up with a new solution can require some thinking and cooperation. It might also be beneficial to think about common objectives that both parties can agree on, and then utilize those objectives to inform any prospective solutions.

  • How can you maintain composure when settling disputes?

An essential component of emotional regulation is breathing. During a debate, if you catch yourself getting agitated or upset, take a moment to calm yourself down by pausing to take a few slow, deep breaths. To calm down and completely comprehend the situation, give yourself time to listen to everyone concerned rather than automatically protecting your interests.

  • What distinguishes conflict management techniques from conflict resolution techniques?

By assisting you in reducing stress and developing a suitable action plan, conflict resolution skills enable you to find an amicable solution and put an end to the issue. Your ability to manage conflicts can help you lessen their detrimental impacts. In business settings, some conflict is normal and can encourage cooperation and original thought. Leadership and feedback are two conflict management techniques that can assist you in creating a safe workplace where team members can argue within reason.

  • How can conflict resolution skills benefit the workplace?

Conflict resolution skills play a pivotal role in promoting a positive and productive work environment. By adeptly handling conflicts, employees can minimize disruptions and maintain focus on tasks. Effective conflict resolution fosters improved teamwork and collaboration, as individuals learn to communicate openly, listen actively, and find common ground. This contributes to higher job satisfaction, reduced stress levels, and better overall morale. Moreover, conflict resolution skills enhance leadership qualities, enabling managers to address disputes, boost employee engagement, and cultivate a harmonious workplace culture.

  • How can conflict resolution skills be applied to cross-functional teams?

In cross-functional teams, where diverse expertise and viewpoints converge, conflicts can arise due to differing priorities and approaches. Conflict resolution skills are indispensable in these scenarios. Active listening helps team members understand each other’s perspectives and problem-solving techniques facilitate finding solutions that accommodate various needs. Effective communication ensures that potential misunderstandings are preempted, while empathy encourages mutual respect. By leveraging these skills, cross-functional teams can capitalize on their diversity, harness collective creativity, and achieve synergy that propels the team toward its goals.

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