Methods of Conflict Resolution

Every conflict is, at its most basic level, a struggle to get one’s goals met. The thing to keep in mind is that all parties involved are bent on the same goal. In today’s post, we’ll look at a few ways we can go about resolving a conflict


One person is determined to have his or her goals met at the cost of the other. Power is a large part of this approach. Might makes right and all of that.


No one wins and no one is satisfied. Usually both people will have been striving to win but due to the way the conflict was carried out both have lost. Even when we think we’ve won through the use of power, when viewed through the long term lenses of relationship, we have often ended up in this position.

Skunk Cabbage - Bruce Witzel photo


Both people get at least part of what they wanted. All and all, this is not a bad way through a conflict situation.


Two people have worked effectively through the conflict situation until the needs of both are satisfied – a truly cooperative approach.

Flower 1 - Bruce Witzel photo

How to Make the Best Choice in a Conflict Situation

Different situations require different responses. Though, upon first blush, a cooperative approach seems ideal, we can’t always put in the effort or take the time to make it work.

Consider deferring to the other

If you are clearly in the wrong – or even suspect you might be wrong – it behooves you, for the sake of self, the other and the relationship, to give in. Come on, now, it isn’t that hard. Suck it up. Eating a bit of crow never killed anyone.

Defer if the issue matters more to the other person than it does to you. There is no use engaging in a heated debate about which movie to see when you don’t care all that much and your partner does.

Defer to allow the other a learning experience. This sounds a tad cold but there are times – especially with children and young people – when it is wise to let the other put his or her own ideas to the test and see how it works out.

Defer if the long-term cost is not worth the short-term gain. Sure, you hate going to your in-laws for Christmas but is winning out on this issue worth the long-term cost to your relationship? Probably not.

Flower 2 - Bruce Witzel photo

Consider compromising

Consider some sort of a compromise when there isn’t enough time for win-win cooperation. If both of you are starving, it probably isn’t the time to work out a cooperative policy for who cooks and when. Compromise for now and get some food on the table.

Sometimes the issue isn’t important enough to either person to justify spending the time on a cooperative win-win outcome. And that’s okay. Not everything is earthshattering.

There will be times when the other is unwilling to invest the time in a win-win conflict resolution. That’s life. It’s an imperfect world. A compromise may be the best that can be achieved.

Iris - Bruce Witzel photo

Consider competing

If the issue really matters to you, it may be appropriate to work for a win-lose type of outcome. There will be times when you are confident that you know how things need to be done. Perhaps the entire group wants to head off in one direction looking for water when you are absolutely convinced that fresh water is in another direction. The real threat of dying of thirst drives you forward. Go ahead – work to get everyone turned around at whatever cost.

There are times when others will take advantage of you if you don’t work to win. The Saying What Matters Lady is not a huge fan of competitive endeavours but there are times when we need to compete. There is no use entering a race if you don’t intend to at least try and win.

Desert flower - Bruce Witzel photo

Consider cooperating

Sometimes the resolution of a conflict situation is so important that it is imperative that both people fully buy into the solution. For example, you sit down with your partner to plan for retirement. Unless both of you feel, at the end of the process, that you are each winning, don’t expect the plan to work.

If the long-term relationship is important to both people, it becomes imperative that decisions meet both people’s needs. How to bring up children, manage money and deal with in-laws are all big decisions that have a wide-ranging impact on relationships. Solving conflicts around such issues require cooperation.

Whenever another person is willing to put in the time to reach a cooperative, win-win solution, it would be wise to meet that person half-way with the same intention.

Kohan Reflection Garden 2 - Bruce Witzel photo

Okay, there you have it. A few approaches to consider. Get curious. Think about your experiences with working to solve conflict using any of these approaches. What works? What doesn’t? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting the outcome to be different is often cited as a definition of bad relationship practice. The Saying What Matters lady urges you to go forth and cooperate whenever you can.

About francisguenette

Writer, blogger and author of the Crater Lake Series.
This entry was posted in Communication skills, Counselling, Mental health, Photography, Relationship, Self Help, Teaching and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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