Dispute Resolution Tips

Resolving Conflicts: Tip #1 Perspective

Conflict is when two parties disagree about something of importance to each.  When you are in a conflict, you grow increasingly aware of what you see as the central issues, of their importance and their justification.  You become sensitized to how you are being affected by the issues as well as the other person’s behaviors.  You become attentive to how you feel.

But as our introspection waxes, our awareness of the other person wanes.  Most of us know a lot less about how the other person is affected, and how he or she views it.  In fact, you may have heard a friend at one time explaining that the “other person” in their conflict simply wants to make them miserable, or to get back at them for some past misunderstanding.  This is rarely true, however.  Like yourself, most other people engage in conflict because they really do have genuinely different interests, expectations, information, or values. 

The key to resolving a conflict usually lies in understanding the issues and affects from the perspectives of both parties.  How would you answer the following questions?

  • What are most the most important issues to her/him?
  • How does the other person feel about the dispute?
  • How would s/he define the problem(s) that need to be resolved?
  • How would s/he describe my behavior in this dispute?
  • How has my behavior in the dispute affected her/him ?

When you can answer these questions, you will have discovered a potentially important key for unlocking the dispute!  Those concerns are the reason that other person is in conflict with you. If you can propose alternative solutions that address his or her concerns, you are far along the path of resolving the issues.  Even more than resolving the immediate dispute, you have begun to construct a foundation for a more positive working relationship.

This tip is based on: "Preparing for Your Mediation," by Tom Sebok, Mediate.com., October 2002;https://www.mediate.com/articles/SebokT.cfm


Resolving Conflicts: Tip #2 Giving Feedback to Peers

Technique for how to give feedback to a peer is two easy steps. 

Step 1 is to state the behavior, simply and concretely.  For example, “When you show up late …” or “When you tell me you’ll have it done, but don’t do it …”  

Step 2 is to describe the impact.  One or two impacts are sufficient, don’t pile them on.

This is what some positive and negative feedback statements look like.

  • “When you do such detailed data analysis … it makes me really glad we’re co-authoring this paper together.”
  • “When you report back to the department about your University service, it helps me understand that committee’s work and also your valuable input. Thanks for being on the committee.”
  • “When you come late to meetings … it throws things off and we get behind”
  • “When you tell me you’ll have the lecture done and don’t follow through … I can’t finish preparing the exercises and our class doesn’t flow for the students”

Framing the feedback is pretty easy.  “When you do that behavior, this impact happens.”  But there is one more critical point: how it sounds.  If you take a casual, peer to peer tone, your feedback will be a piece of input you are giving to the other person.  Relax, ease up, give it as a friend and it will be received as such.  Feedback is not judgment, it is only insight.

This tip is based on a podcast "The Peer Feedback Model,"  by Michael Auzenne and Mark Horstman, posted on Manager Tools,  October 22, 2006;  https://www.manager-tools.com/2006/10/the-peer-feedback-model.