Conflict and Individual Responsibility

At one time or another in our lives, we are likely to be involved in some kind of conflict with another person. How we handle that conflict, how we respond to it, can make all the difference in terms of whether the conflict is resolved or remains a divisive issue.

The following options are a useful way to approach conflict with others to help resolve conflict situations.

When the conflict involves you:

  • Before asking your antagonist to change behaviors, state: “I am responsible for the following behaviors in this conflict or crisis.” When you own your contribution to the conflict it will help take the other person off the defensive.
  • Hear perceptions of each other’s behavior. This will allow for:
    • Clearing up misconceptions
    • Prevention of actions based on assumptions
    • Stopping analysis of the other person’s behavior, which leads to defensiveness
    • Establishing data which can lead to resolving conflicts

  • When upset over a situation, then take the initiative and go to the person directly. Set aside time to work through problem that exits.
  • Never assume a situation cannot be resolved unless you have tried to resolve it, giving the other person a chance to do so with you.
  • Establish a commitment or contract for new behavior and follow through.
  • Call person directly when a commitment is broken (rather than talking about them behind their back).

When the conflict does not involve you (or when you are peripheral to it):

  • Be an integrator:
    • Do not listen to “gossip”…tell the person who is gossiping to: “Go talk to the person directly rather than talking about the person.”
    • State your belief that the third party will come to you directly if she/he wants you to have information about the situation.
  • Act as “third party” negotiator by getting two people involved in meeting to resolve differences, and do not do their work for them.