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Conflict Resolution - Oakton Community College

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Conflict Resolution
Finding an “Elegant Solution”
People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts
Robert Bolton, Ph.D.
“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone,
there is one factor that can make the
difference between damaging your
relationship and deepening it. That factor is
William James
What is your attitude about conflict?
• Conflict is difficult,
uncomfortable—I would like to
avoid it as much as possible.
• Conflict is difficult, but if it
happens I want to be in control so
that the outcome works for me.
• Conflict is an opportunity—for
better relationships at work and
home—and for personal growth
Three Approaches to Relationships
• Passive
• Aggressive
• Assertive
Handling the Emotional
Components of Conflict
• Step 1—Do a personal inventory
• Step 2—Treat the other person with respect
• Step 3—Listen until you experience the other side
• Step 4—State your views, needs, and feelings
Basic Communication Tools
• Listening skills
• Assertion skills
• Collaborative problem-solving skills
Listening Skills
• Attending skills
• Following skills
• Reflecting skills
“I” Statements
• Your feelings about a behavior,
• the effect is has on you
• what you would prefer the other person to do
“The Elegant Solution: Collaborative Problem
• Win/Win way of dealing with
conflicting needs
• Alternatives to collaborative
problem solving
Compromise—I’ll meet you part way
Step 1:
Define the problem in terms of needs, not
• Discover the why
• Discover the why and you
understand the need
• Solution-type definitions
lead to win/win results.
Step 2:
Brainstorm possible solutions
Try for quantity, not quality
Don’t evaluate
Don’t clarify or seek clarification
Go for zany ideas
Expand on each other’s ideas
List every idea
Avoid attaching people’s names to the
• Keep an open mind
Step 3:
Select the solution that will best meet both parties
• Ask the other what proposed alternatives he
or she would favor in the solution of the
• State which alternatives look best to you
• See which choices coincide
• Jointly decide on one or more of the
• Be sure the other person is satisfied with the
Step 4:
Plan who will do what, where and by when
• Decide who will carry out each part of the solution
• May need to decide the “how” as well the “what”
• Set a time to meet again
Step 5:
Implement the Plan
• This is the point of action
• People separate and carry out their agreed-upon
• If one does not live up to the agreed-upon actions,
use assertion message followed by reflective
Step 6:
Evaluate the problem-solving process and
how well the solution turned out
• How the parties feel about the process
they just went through
• What each liked most/least about process
• What each can do better next time
Case Study #1
The Case of the Home Buyers’ Blues
• You and your significant other are stuck in a disagreement
over whether or not to buy a house at this time. You would
like to wait until you have saved 20% of the sale price for
the down payment to be able to obtain a fixed rate
mortgage and reduce the monthly payments. Your
significant other would like to buy now with a variable rate
mortgage, believing that interest rates will be on the rise
soon and that your salaries will keep up with whatever
amount the monthly payments are. Neither side seems
willing to budge.
Case Study #2—
The Case of the Colleagues’
Little Black Books
• Your department needs to create an “on-call” schedule for
emergency response. Some members of your group would
like to create a schedule where each person rotates days of
the week; others would like to be on-call for a week at a
time. The discussion has become lively, and there doesn’t
seem to be a way to come to consensus.
Case Study #3—
The Case of the Administrator’s Angst
• Two faculty members from your division want to teach the
same section of a course in their department. The chair has
asked them to work out the conflict, but they have been
unable to resolve the problem and the conflict has created
tension within the department. Their chair has asked you to
help the faculty members collaborate on a solution because
they all respect your ability to problem solve. Each
individual has legitimate reasons for wanting to teach that
particular section, and each is qualified to teach the course.
Case Study #4—
The Sandwiched Woman Mystery
• You have an elderly mother in a city about 5 hours away.
Her health has been declining in the last several years and,
while she is still able to live independently, she needs a lot
of support in terms of transportation, shopping, etc. You
have a sibling that lives in the same town as your mother
and is starting to become resentful and angry toward you
because she provides this support for your mother. Your
brother lives in the same town and is willing to help out but
seems to rely on your sister to organize and arrange
whatever your mother needs. You all have jobs and families
of your own. You are feeling guilty, angry and helpless about
the situation.
What barriers do you bring to the table?
Barriers to Communication
• Judging
– Criticizing
– Name-calling
– Diagnosing
– Praising Evaluativly
Barriers to Communication
• Sending Solutions
– Ordering
– Threatening
– Moralizing
– Excessive/Inappropriat
e Questioning
– Advising
Barriers to Communication
• Avoiding the Other’s
– Diverting
– Logical Argument
– Reassuring
Where do you go from here?
• What is one thing I can do to become a better
collaborative problem-solver?
• How can I go about doing that?
• When will I check my progress?
• How will I know if I have made progress?
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