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Conflict Resolution


Increasing the Chances of Success

Basic Steps

Old Methods (Used by Adults on Children)

Personal Example - A conflict with my neighbor - March 2, 2016


Suggested Reading

- Respect

- Mediation

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Nearly all conflicts involve underlying emotional issues. The stronger the feelings, the more difficult the resolution. To resolve conflicts, then, it is absolutely necessary to address the feelings of all parties. Listed below is a conflict resolution model which emphasizes emotions.


Increasing the Chances of Success

The probability of a mutually agreeable solution is increased when:

  • The parties are in direct communication

  • The parties have learned the basics skills of Emotional Literacy, EQ-Based listening, and Validating

  • The parties honestly communicate both thoughts and feelings

  • There is a mutual respect of needs and feelings.

  • Neither party feels superior or more powerful.

  • Participation is voluntary, not forced.

  • The goal is a win-win outcome.

  • This principle is followed:

First seek to understand, then to be understood.1

The Basic Steps

A. Seek To Understand

  • Validate each person's feeling.
  • Confirm a willingness to solve problem.
  • Seek understanding of the cause of the feeling.
  • Confirm accurate understanding. Paraphrase.
  • Identify the underlying unmet emotional needs.
  • Show empathy.
  • Ask the powerful and positive question:

What would help you feel better?

B. Seek to be Understood:

  • Share your feelings & needs
  • Confirm accurate reception & understanding.

C. Mutually generate options & resolutions

  • Brainstorm solutions (while withholding evaluation/judgment).
  • Discuss each party's feelings about alternatives.
  • Make selection which maximizes positive feelings and minimizes negative feelings.



1. Resist inclination to focus on behavior at the expense of addressing the feelings behind the behavior.

2. Allow the least powerful person the lead role in generating and evaluating options. This helps balance the power.

Note: Manuel J. Smith, author of When I Say No I Feel Guilty. Smith says, in addition to the two traditional ways of responding to conflict, fight or flight, there is a third way.

This third way is to verbally problem solve.

In all my reading, this is the only time I have ever seen this idea expressed, but how much sense it makes! And if we could all remember just this one point, what a difference it would make.

Conflict With My Neighbor
Personal Story - S. Hein

Background - I am currently renting an old house in a small village in Uruguay. Right now I am trying to figure out ways to solve a conflict we have by using a combination of the ideas written on this page and some ideas I got from Marshall Rosenberg, who started NVC - Non-violent communication.

Today I was thinking of going to the nearby cities to try to find people to help me with conflict I have with my neighbor. I want to find someone who will help me write something in Spanish so I can present it to the commission members who I rent my house from.

I was also thinking of how I would like to use this conflict and my ideas on conflict resolution for a topic to discuss or present in schools or adult classes. Then I started thinking "I will use this as an opportunity to get something positive from this.

After I thought this I started thinking about cognitive therapy, David Burns, positive psychology etc.

I realized that I did not start out by trying to find something positive about this experience. Instead I have processed my feelings and my needs and my beliefs for a very long time. As a result of this processing, I started feeling more "positive." It was not as a result of "positive thinking" or any thing David Burns would recommend in his Feeling Good book.

To give a very brief summary of the situation I was aware that I was not feeling respected by my neighbor, FC. I was going over many different options when I thought of what Stephen Covey said in the 7 habits book. It was something like "begin with the end in mind". So I asked myself what my goal was and I realized that since I didn't feel respected that I would make it my goal to feel more respected, but not by my neighbor. I don't respect FC so I am not motivated to try to earn his respect. From him I just want to resolve the more tangible conflicts between us which have to do with him coming onto my property. When I say "tangible" I mean as opposed to emotional, such as my need for respect, though one could argue that respect is also something tangible. I guess another way of saying this is that I don't feel very optimistic that I will get much respect from him. I have such bitter feelings towards him that I prefer not to talk to him and it seems he also prefers not to talk to me, probably because he knows he is in the wrong. So my plan is to try to get someone he knows to talk to him or be our "mediator."

So instead of trying to get respect from him I will try to earn some respect from some other people in the community by handling this in a way which I believe can do that.

Old Methods Used by Adults on Children AKA Roadblocks to Communication:

This is something I adapted from Thomas Gordons list of "Roadblocks to Communication.' Although he was talking about children and adults, I believe it is helpful to think about a more powerful and a less powerful party in a conflict. Or even two equally powerful parties, or powerful in different ways. One might be more skilled at hurting the other with their words, for example.

S. Hein

  Method used Results Are That Child or Teen May Feel
1 Ordering, directing, commanding, , forcing controlled, forced, powerless, helpless, discouraged, incompetent, resentful, disrespected, rebellious, dependent
2 Warning, admonishing, threatening afraid, threatened, forced, coerced, discouraged, powerless, resentful, insecure, disrespected, rebellious, dependent
3 Exhorting, moralizing, preaching preached to, bad, wrong, guilty, inferior, inadequate, unworthy, powerless, dependent
4 Advising, suggesting, solving controlled, incompetent, underestimated, untrusted, dependent, alone
5 Lecturing, "Dr. Spocking;" invalidated, misunderstood, alone, tuned-out, uncared for, underestimated
6 Judging, criticizing, disagreeing judged, criticized, unaccepted, resentful, guilty, inferior
7 Name-calling, labeling labeled, misunderstood, different, unaccepted, stereotyped, disrespected, alienated, alone
8 Ridiculing, mocking ridiculed, mocked, offended, insulted, disrespected, alienated, alone
9 Shaming, blaming, guilt tripping shamed, blamed, guilty, bad, inadequate, insecure, defensive, dependent
10 Interrogating interrogated, defensive, attacked, probed, questioned, confused, insecure, intimidated, untrusted, doubted, tested, untrusting, skeptical, resentful, offended, insulted, underestimated
11 Withdrawing, silence minimized, weak, helpless, victimized, guilty, invalidated, disrespected, discounted, uncared about, misunderstood, alone, punished
12 Distracting, humoring, diverting Distracted, evaded, not taken seriously
13 Rewarding, Evaluating Positively Falsely praising or agreeing misunderstood, manipulated, bribed, unimportant, invalidated, confused, unsupported
14 Falsely reassuring, sympathizing, patronizing, consoling, supporting distracted, diverted, invalidated, repressed, denied, minimzed, disrespected, confused, dependent

Adopted from T. Gordon, 1975 p 317)

Overall result tends towards low self-esteem
See also
Alfie Kohn on the topics of punishment and rewards

With the conflict resolution method proposed here the child is more likely to feel:

Understood, validated, important, respected, trusted, valued, esteemed, self-reliant, independent, self-assured, safe, secure, encouraged, supported, powerful, capable, competent, confident, empowered, optimistic.

This in turn helps lead towards higher self-esteem and more agreeability and cooperation






1. From Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People