The 8 fundamental principles of highly effective conflict resolution

We all live and work with people, but all the people are different. And when you are an entrepreneur, the Leader, it is even more challenging. You are not just working with people, you are also working with people who work with people, who are working with people. As a leader you take responsibility for results, and that always involves getting others to perform and work together. Predictably, human relations bring challenges and conflicts.

There are some key lessons that all successful leaders eventually learn about conflict resolution. There aren’t that many – only about eight. But if you don’t know and apply these eight vital principles, human challenges can make your leadership messy and your life a frustrating experience.  So, it is crucial to learn those eight principles – 3 Prerequisites and 5 Steps. I found out about them when I met this book “Conflict Resolution – The 8 Vital Principles” from Life Leadership Essential Series (, and now I’ll be sharing them in this article and by infographics, you can download here.

The eight fundamental principles of highly effective conflict resolution.

“Every leader must have a plan to handle conflict in his or her organization. Leaders need to resolve conflict at the source, strengthening relationships through a better understanding of the expectations on both sides of any conflict.” – Business leader Orrin Woodward.

Adopt the right mindset

Most people do a lot of wrong things when they face conflict. For example, they typically avoid conflict at almost all costs, they frequently nurse their hurts for a long time before they actually talk to the other person, they often talk about a conflict with other people instead of the one who can really fix the problem, and sometimes they gossip or criticize in an attempt to feel better about themselves and the situation.
Then, when they do work up the nerve to talk to the other person in the conflict, many people try to take the easy way out by leaving a message online, on voice mail, or by sending a note. These types of avoidance actually just create more problems.

All these mistakes – and others like them – are the result of the wrong mindset, and these mistakes can turn small issues or misunderstandings into major problems.

Top leaders avoid these mistakes because they adopt the right mindset.

Prerequisite A – Directly and immediately address the appropriate party instead of dwelling on hurts.

If you’ve been hurt by someone, talk to the person who hurt you. Directly. Don’t wait. Do it right away.

Orrin Woodward in his speech entitled “Conflict Resolution – Relationships for life” addressed this important topic:

“Conflict is like a fire. Easy to snuff out when it is small but nearly impossible to handle when not dealt with it quickly. Imagine going to bed at night and glancing in the corner of your bedroom and seeing a small flame flickering. You decide to ignore it, and you go to bed thinking you’ll address it in the morning. This is probably not a good plan if you like your house. And not addressing the conflict immediately and directly isn’t a good plan if you’d like to maintain your good relationships and success.”

Sometimes it is hard, but the way real leaders respond to conflict or even potential conflict can be summarised as follows:

  • Clarify what expectations weren’t met.
  • Brainstorm and ascribe the best intentions to the other person.
  • Contact the other person directly and talk with him or her.
  • Use the 5 Steps described below
  • Do this all immediately, without giving any hurt or negativity time to rankle or grow.

This is the first and essential prerequisite: handle conflicts immediately by going directly to other parties in the situation.

Prerequisite B – Discuss concerns with the other party instead of gossiping.

Too often people who feel hurt avoid talking to the other party directly. They talk to a bunch other people instead. This is gossip. This is also criticism. And both of these are the enemies of leadership and success.

Conflict will happen, people are people, and misunderstandings, hurts and failed expectations and other conflicts will come. Leaders know this and they prepare for it. Specifically, when any hurt or conflict comes, they take actions by:

  • Clarifying what expectations weren’t met.
  • Ascribing the best intentions to the other person
  • Not allowing worries, hurt or other negatives to fester
  • Never ever gossiping about or criticizing the other party.
  • Contacting another person directly and lovingly resolving things (using the 5 Steps)
  • Doing this all immediately, without giving negative feelings time to grow.

This is the leadership approach, the mature way of responding to conflict.

Prerequisite C – Meet face to face to address conflicts instead of relying on electronic communications

Even when people adopt the right mindset, they sometimes make the mistake of communicating conflicts and negatives indirectly. This usually happens with email, on voice messages or by social media. The problem is that any kind of non-interactive communication tends to fuel the fire of conflict – not quench it.

Whenever you have anything negative to communicate, especially when dealing with any kind of conflict or potential conflict, do it face to face if possible and at the very least in person on the phone (or using one of the many video chat options available today). Never try to resolve conflict using non-interactive format. If you have to send an email or leave a message, just be positive and tell the person you would love to talk them and look forward to their call. Then deal directly with them in person.

The bigger the real or potential negative, hurt or conflict, the closer you need to be as you work together for a great solution. If the conflict is deep or highly emotional do it in person. Never try to engage in conflict resolution through email, social media or voice mail.

Adopt the right mindset

To summarize all 3 prerequisites you can download the Infographic at the bottom of the post and just follow these 10 rules to adopt the right mindset for successful conflict resolution:

  1. Conflicts will come and leaders don’t avoid them
  2. When a problem arises, deal with it directly.
  3. Deal with it immediately.
  4. Know specifically what expectations weren’t met.
  5. Always ascribe the best motivations to the other party, unless they personally tell you otherwise.
  6. Don’t allow hurts or conflicts to fester or grow.
  7. Don’t spread the problem to other people: never gossip or criticise behind someone’s back.
  8. Protect the other parties reputation.
  9. Don’t communicate negatives or potential negatives in any non-interactive format – talk in person.
  10. The bigger the problem, the more you need to be physically closer when you resolve things.

The 5 Steps of Effective Conflict Resolution.

Now when we are adopting the right mindset it is time to talk about 5 Steps. Whenever conflict arises between you or someone else, or between people you lead, take action.

Remember to do it immediately, don’t wait around, don’t let things fester, never gossip, and do things face to face or at least on the phone rather than leaving any kind of non-interactive message.

Step 1 – Affirm the relationship

With the right mindset in place, the steps of highly-effective conflict resolution are simple and straightforward. Step 1 is to Affirm the Relationship. Sit down with the other party and tell them: “I may be uncomfortable, but I’m here because I value our relationship much more than my comfort and more than details of the conflict.”

Communicate that “I’m sure there was some misunderstanding and I want to know how I could have done better and in turn, make it right”
Do this in a spirit of caring, love and honest desire to bridge any gaps. That’s the Step 1.

It is incredibly important to do this at the beginning of any conflict resolution. If you try to skip this step, the whole resolution will probably fail. It’s that essential and that powerful.

Step 2 – Genuinely seek for understanding

Once you have affirmed the relationship to the point that other persons emotional bank account feels fuller and he is ready to get down to the business, the next step is to Seek to Understand. Don’t start by making sure the other party understands you; first, focus on understanding the other party.

What were the expectations that weren’t met for her? What actually happened that led to this misunderstanding? (Often what you thought happened and what really occurred are not exactly the same) What were her intentions? What was she thinking? What has she been thinking since?

These are important things to understand and they usually shed light on what has really occurred. This can clear up a lot of misunderstandings. But it is important not to simply pepper the other person with these direct questions. Instead, let her explain them in her way, in her own words. Listen intently. Most people not very good at this, but leaders must make it a top skill. Really listen.

The key to quality listening is the Mirror Effect, which gives us the Mirror Technique. This means reflecting back what the other person says to you. This is very easy, is only you make a point doing it. Top leaders learn that this is a must. If you don’t do this you won’t usually experience truly effective conflict resolution.

Mirroring is incredibly powerful. It shows the other person that you are truly listening, and it shows also you that you are listening. Mirroring keeps you focused on what the other person is really saying and on the other perrsonš needs, wants and emotional state. When you aren’t mirroring other persons words, you’re not really listening. And if you’re not listening to the person isn’t feeling heard and you aren’t resolving anything.

People need to feel heard and when they do, they can feel understood. Only at this point can they be emotionally ready to think in terms of real solutions.If you actually want to resolve a conflict, you simply must seek first to truly understand. Listen intently, using Mirror Technique over and over until the other person tells you that you have fully understood him.

Step 3 – Lovingly seek to be understood.

The key word here is lovingly! If you don’t come across as loving your explanations will usually fall on deaf ears. How your communications feel are often more important than the actual words you use. As you lovingly share your thoughts and feelings about the situation, remember that your goal is the resolution. The key is to talk about how you felt not about what the other party should have done.

It is important to do Step 3 even when Step 1 and 2 have resolved many of the misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Other person needs the positive feelings that come from really knowing what was going on in your mind. So, do talk through the issues – he needs to hear it from your perspective, and you need to share your views of the conflict, so both of you can avoid letting any residual feelings fester and grow.

As the conversation continues, it is very important not to make a common but hurtful mistake. Don’t assign motives to the other person or speak in attacking ways. For example say “You didn’t call, and I felt..” but don’t say “You didn’t call on purpose and that made me feel…”
Both the assigning of motives and the blame feel accusing and upset, tempting the listener to feel and respond defensively. To be understood, share your experience and how it made you feel; don’t comment on the other person’s thoughts, intentions or behaviors.

When both parties have openly, clearly and lovingly shared their perspectives and concerns and both feel heard and understood, a real and full conflict resolution can occur. In fact, this can leave both parties with better relationship and connection than they had before the conflict.

Step 4 – Own the responsibility and sincerely apologize.

“Real leaders search for ways to be responsible while protecting the ego of the other party. It takes two to tango and it takes two to conflict. None of us are perfect, so if there is a conflict, you can truly take some responsibility for it. Even if you were clueless that a conflict was occurring, you can take responsibility for not communicating more clearly and knowing how the other person was feeling.” – Orrin Woodward

It is essential that your words are genuine and honest, but begin taking responsibility as soon as you see anything you could have done better. Don’t keep those things to yourself own your responsibility, openly vocalize it and say you’re sorry. When you do this, you are signaling that you are truly doing your very best, everything you can, to resolve the situation and restore full feelings of fellowship and cooperation. This is powerful.

If you don’t take responsibility for everything you could have done better, you’ll be bad at resolving conflicts and many people won’t want to work with you. This is a sure way to weaken your influence and undermine your potential leadership and success. When it is time to take responsibility, we reach a natural turning point in any conflict resolution. Every chance we miss to take honest responsibility when we should or could is a strike against us. This is an indispensable part of leadership. Without it, no leadership exists, because trust is broken. Leaders take responsibility – not just for any mistakes but also for not stepping up and doing anything they could have done to avoid problems or make things better.

When we want to be better leaders or to resolve any conflict, we must have real trust. Only when both parties see and voluntarily accept responsibility for anything they did poorly or could have done better is real trust restored. If it doesn’t happen, a resolution is lacking. When you take responsibility, sincerely apologize, do this as many times as it feels appropriate. But always apologize after taking responsibility, not absent of it.

Once you have taken responsibility for your part in the events and apologized for them, and once the other person has done the same, don’t allow your mind to keep reminding you of everything the other party has done wrong. Move on. He’s apologized and you forgave him. Leaders focus on what is really important not on past issues that have already been resolved. If you want to be a leader hold yourself perfectly to this standard.

Step 5 – Seek agreement

At this point both sides have affirmed the importance of the relationship, both have been heard and both have apologized. Now both parties should seek to improve and strengthen their relationship for the future. This is essential step because nothing ever just stays in place. Things change.

Agree that in future you’ll both avoid repeating the same mistakes by always talking to each other immediately and directly if any issue ever arises or even seems to be arising.

Always spend some time and energy talking about the future. As a part of every conflict resolution – whether between you and another person or with you serving as a leader helping other parties – ask yourself what the opportunity is in your conflict. Brainstorm ways to capitalize together on this opportunity. Leaders don’t settle for fixing a conflict, they look for ways to cooperatively turn it into a major victory.

“Life is best lived as an adventure.” – Chris Brady

When you have completed step 1-4 and the conflict is resolved, remember that it isn’t really solved until you’ve found the opportunity it afforded. This means coming together and Seeking Agreement on something truly important you need or want to accomplish together.

The leadership attitude of going the extra mile turns regular people into winners! It is a key component of greatness.

All leaders – all people, in fact, face times and situations where conflict resolution is necessary. Now we know the 8 Vital Principles of Conflict Resolutions and next step is to apply them and turn into habits in our own life. When conflict resolution is needed, knowing and playing these 8 Principles can make the difference.

To summarize all 3 prerequisites you can download the Infographic “10 rules to adopt the right mindset for successful conflict resolution” just enter your name and best email and hot Download


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