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On Conflict Resolution

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Depending on the severity of a problem, conflict at work might start as a tiny blip or grow into a huge explosion. Depending on how people handle conflict, it has the potential to make or break a relationship, whether it is in the workplace or personal life. Conflict can be resolved peacefully or escalate into a physical altercation depending on how effectively parties communicate. Katherine Shonk is the editor of the Negotiation Briefings newsletter, a monthly source of negotiation advice for professionals published by the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School explains “ In the workplace, it sometimes seems as if some types of conflict are always with us. Miss a deadline, and you are likely to face conflict with your boss. Lash out at a colleague who you feel continually undermines you, and you’ll end up in conflict. And if you disagree with a fellow manager about whether to represent a client whose values you disdain, conflict is also likely. In particular, three types of conflict are common in organizations: task conflict, relationship conflict, and value conflict. Although open communication, collaboration, and respect will go a long way toward conflict management, the three types of conflict can also benefit from targeted conflict-resolution tactics”(

Additionally, if the conflict is not handled appropriately, it may worsen and become a much greater issue. In an organization, sexual harassment is a problem. It might take the shape of a joke that seems innocent and is not meant to offend anyone, or it can take a more serious form that poses serious problems for the company and the people involved. Problems of this kind can make a company, organization, or group less valuable and result in the loss of clients and staff. Conflict is one of those things that can either build an organization and make it stronger or weaken it and destroy it. The most important thing in a conflict is effective communication because without it organizations and businesses cannot exist and function properly.

Indeed Editorial Team illustrates, “Effective communication is the ability to have a conversation with another person in an engaging way that is engaging, focused, consistent and offers value. Communicating effectively involves two or more people who can clearly express their intent and understand the focus or purpose of the conversation, while also allowing each person to get their point across” (

In the workplace, effective communication is essential for success since it facilitates dispute resolution and results in a solution. Professional expression can help team members become better team players and provide the team with structure. People can work more effectively together in both personal and professional settings when they are aware of their boundaries. People may get cranky and mistakenly lash out at another person as a result of getting poor-quality sleep. Conflict may occur in the workplace at any time for a number of additional reasons. A collective project, for instance, can take weeks or months to fully complete due to an unrealistic job completion time.

However, the project manager becomes impatient and demands that a project be completed immediately, even though the due date is months away.

Another instance is when the manager yells at the staff when they arrive at work because they are having marital issues and are angry with them. Nonetheless, the lack of professionalism reflects poorly on the organization's leadership. Another conflict creator is texting. This can be an issue since each person reads texts differently, and could be dyslexic. This can make misunderstandings easier and possibly result in conflicts at work. In addition, if a text comes across as impolite, disrespectful, or inappropriate this is a sure thing to cause a conflict. A former student at Penn State University illustrates, “ Although texting was created to enable quicker and easier terms of communicating, it has a rather damaging effect on real interaction-face to face- where as within a text message, the emotion and purpose behind what is trying to be said can be misinterpreted. We are slowly lacking the ability and “skill” of human interaction and because of the way texting is valued today, it is hard to see the various disadvantages of it. (

How do we then resolve conflict? Create strong interpersonal skills as a start. Speaking less and listening more has more benefits. An organization may gain so much from having a skilled listener. They have a high regard for them and make excellent leaders. Craig Impelman a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom explains, “A key element in the art of listening is to not be thinking about what you’re going to say while the other person is talking. Quieting your thoughts and really hearing the other person with an open mind sometimes requires a conscious effort” ( The process of settling disputes and coming up with a solution can start when the other person feels heard when you are actively listening. There should be more attentive listeners at work. How can someone be a successful communicator if they aren't listening? If someone won't listen to you and keeps talking over and interrupting you while you're speaking, it won't be doable. It is impolite and makes the problem worse. The person in the conflict feels unheard when they are trying to convey the issue but the other person is not paying attention. That can lead someone to resign from their position and seek employment elsewhere. Without a good listener, how can group projects get completed? The organization cannot simply progress if no one is listening to each other. If people can master this essential skill of listening the conflict rate would drop immensely. If more people felt heard these organizations would be in business for a long time. I believe that listening is the missing half of communication. William Ury, the co-founder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, illustrates in his ted talk on youtube, “It is absolutely necessary but often overlooked. We live in an age we call the Age of Communication. Certainly, with cell phones, texts, tweets, and emails, there is a lot of talking going on. But how much listening can there really be with so much interruption and distraction? My passion for the last 30 years has been helping people get to "yes" in very tough negotiations.

From family feuds to boardroom battles, from labor strikes to civil wars. I hear a lot of talking, but I don't hear a lot of real listening. We think of negotiation as being about talking. In fact, it's really about listening. If you study the behavior of successful negotiators, you find that they listen far more than they talk. After all, we're given two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should listen at least twice as much as we speak. Why listen? Why is it so important? Let me tell you a story” ( ). Lastly, people are so distracted that listening is almost impossible. With so many distractions lingering around us that people do not know how to listen. A lot of lifes problems could be solved including conflict with listening to ourselves than the other person and developing true communication that starts with listening. This is how you resolve conflict, the skill of listening, being slow to speak, and being assertive in conversation and in life with genuine listening.

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