Conflict Resolution: Try This Simple Two Step Approach

Try this simple two step approach to conflict resolution

Caught in an argument, tough negotiation or even a full-blown office battle? Try this simple two step conflict resolution approach. I’ve been using it to great effect, and I don’t know how many times it has saved me from trouble.

Step 1: Convert disagreement into misalignment

Step 2: Convert misalignment into alignment

That’s all.

Well of course there’s more to it but the process is essentially simple as that. It’s a dialogical process (in fact, this magic formula emerged from my practice of Nonviolent Communication combined with an inspiration from here), and it will take patience, persistence and a lot of listening. However, as long as you stick to your two step goals, you will always get through.

In fact, although the end result might seem as the same as good ‘ol convincing and persuading, the satisfaction is higher for both sides. In a way this is also a practice of Fair Process.

Let’s break it down.

  • Step 1: Convert disagreement into misalignment
  • Declare “I don’t think we’re in disagreement.”
  • Seek a common denominator goal. “At the end of the day we both want to achieve [common denominator], right?”
  • “So I think it’s a matter of misalignment between [difference].”
  • The difference can be on the how, who and the myriads of the what. Articulate that.
  • Invite to resolve together: “How might we bridge this gap?”
  • Step 2: Convert misalignment into alignment
  • It can be negotiation. You might need to seek compromises. Keep on narrowing the gap until both sides agree.
  • It can be differences on the how. Does it really need to be my way or the highway? Consider everything as an experiment.
  • “Although I have [reservations/concerns/doubts] on your [how] for [reason], I acknowledge how you want to do it. Shall we compare our ideas and see which one is better to try first? And can we agree that we try the other way if either idea that we try first doesn’t work?”
  • It can be differences on the what. Maybe you want to choose A over B against the objection of others. Again, consider everything as an experiment.
  • “At the end of the day, we’re aligned on fulfilling the [target needs] of [whoever, whatever purpose], right? Meanwhile, we can’t tell for sure until we try A or B, but we don’t have the luxury to try both (or do we?). It’s a calculated bet; shall we narrow down our discussion on figuring out which one has better odds?”

In the end what’s important is that both parties walk out satisfied. You might walk out of the discussion without fully getting what you wanted, but it is possible that you are satisfied. Same applies to the other side. That’s the essence of a successful conflict resolution. Both parties may not walk out with what they initially wanted entirely, but they are satisfied, happy and the relationship undamaged – in fact even repaired or fortified.

All this from a two step simple approach of converting disagreement to misalignment, and then to alignment. Give it a try – satisfaction guaranteed 🙂

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