Conflict resolution

Listen to this article
Audio file

Key points

  • conflict resolution skills are needed to resolve problems and disputes in a healthy way
  • conflict resolution involves communication, listening, understanding and problem-solving skills
  • to develop your conflict resolution skills, cultivate a growth mindset, seek support from other people and focus on emotional regulation
  • conflict resolution can be challenging, so it is important to seek support from other people and focus on emotional regulation to take care of yourself.

What are conflict resolution skills?

Conflict resolution skills are needed to resolve problems and disputes in a healthy way.

Why are conflict resolution skills important?

Conflict resolution skills are important because they help prevent disagreements from getting worse as conflict cannot be avoided, only addressed.

In many cases, you can also maintain positive relationships after the conflict has been resolved.

Without conflict resolution skills, you may risk having conflicts that escalate or continue for a longer time.

How do you develop your conflict resolution skills?

  • communication and listening: making sure that everyone is heard, and being clear and respectful in how you share your opinion
  • understanding: your own feelings, and the feelings of other people and consider that other people may have a different point of view
  • problem-solving: finding solutions that are fair for everyone.

It is important to keep in mind that other people may have great solutions and ideas that deserve to be heard.

They may also have a different perception of the conflict that happened.

While every conflict is different, here are five general steps towards conflict resolution:

  1. find a neutral and private space to talk. A neutral space could be a meeting room, rather than yours or the other persons office.
  2. clarify each person’s perception of the conflict. This means trying to understand each person’s point of view.
  3. listen to everyone who is involved without judging them.
  4. look for solutions that ideally benefit everyone.
  5. agree upon the resolution. Choose a solution that the greatest number of people are happy with.

What are the common challenges with conflict resolution?

Conflict resolution requires mutual respect from both people, but this does not always happen.

Many people struggle with conflict, and difficulties can arise when one or more of the people involved are unfair or disrespectful to each other.

If you have had negative experiences with conflict in the past, that may make it difficult for you to engage in conflict resolution.

For example, if you’ve previously experienced bullying, conflict might feel triggering or unsafe.

Dealing with a conflict can sometimes be stressful and upsetting.

To help you manage your emotions during and after times of conflict, it can be helpful to:

  • take breaks when you feel overwhelmed
  • request that a support person be with you
  • use grounding techniques to manage your emotions
  • journal or talk about your feelings later on
  • do something you enjoy afterwards (self-care activities).

Case Study

Freddie’s manager wants them to work on Thursdays, but they’re a casual worker and they’re unavailable on Thursdays. Freddie offers to work Fridays to make up for being unavailable on Thursdays. Their manager gets frustrated and tells them there’s no point coming in on Fridays. After this conversation, Freddie’s work hours are cut, and they are now only rostered on Thursdays. They feel unfairly targeted and punished, and tried to have a meeting with their manager to talk about it, but the manager said no. 

Freddie is a member of a union and speaks to a union representative for advice. They suggest Freddie writes an email to their manager outlining their concerns. Freddie does this, but their manager refuses to restore their work hours. So, Freddie requests a meeting with their manager and asks for their union representative to attend the meeting to support them. Their goal is to discuss the situation, resolve any bad feelings with their manager, and restore their work hours. In the meeting, Freddie and their manager express their points of view. 

Freddie feels anxious, but they take regular breaks and is glad to have the support of the union representative who advocates for their rights. At the end of the meeting, Freddie’s manager apologises for how he expressed his frustration, and agrees to give Freddie a consistent number of hours each week, with no Thursdays.

Real Life Story

Story description

I have been having ongoing problems with the new co-worker that I share an office with. My co-worker likes to listen to the radio at high volume while they work. But I find it too distracting and loud music causes sensory overload for me. I have asked them to turn it off multiple times, but they get defensive and refuse.


So, I instead asked if we could try to compromise on a solution that would hopefully work for both of us. I suggested that they wear headphones when I am in the office, so that I don’t hear the radio. And when I am in the office, I will wear my noise cancelling ear plugs to help block out sound. Surprisingly they agreed! Things at work have been much better.