What is one attitude that can be considered the key to conflict resolution?

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kellykflanigan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship, be it in the work place, at home, or even on the street with complete strangers. Conflict resolution is not as inevitable, but it is essential to maintaining one's overall health and mental well-being. Many companies have conflict resolution policies, a designated set of steps to follow in the event a conflict occurs. Families may also have an informal/unspecified conflict resolution "policy," based on the values and demographics of the family. Whatever the environment is in which the conflict occurs, there is one attitude that can be considered key in all conflict resolution situations: having the willingness to see the other side of the issue. 

It's human nature to desire to be understood and validated. When a conflict occurs, it happens most often because Person A and Person B each believe themselves to be right, and the other to be wrong. If neither is willing to see the other person's side, the conflict can escalate quickly. No one wants to be in the wrong, so both people stand their ground and refuse to acknowledge the possibility that the other person could be right. 

With an attitude of willingness to see the other side, however, the path to conflict resolution can be faster and easier. If the people involved ask questions to clarify the position of the other side, rather than focusing solely on stating their own position, everyone learns. For example:

Person A: I can't believe you went over my head and emailed the boss about that! (This is not a question, and can immediately put Person B on the defensive.)

Instead:

Person A: You emailed the boss rather than coming to me first; why did you feel like that was the only course of action?

Person A has communicated, through the second question, a willingness to hear Person B speak. Person B can then respond in kind. 

Rather than, 

Person B: Because you never listen to what I have to say! (Again, not a question, so Person A's only response is one of defense.) 

Person B could say,

Person B: If I had emailed you directly, what would you have said? 

Giving the other person the opportunity to speak can open up lines of communication and show a willingness to see the other person's side of the issue; this is a key element in conflict resolution. 

All people desire to feel heard and to have their values and position on an issue at least appear to be considered. When people involved in a conflict ask questions and listen to the opposing position, they invite the opportunity to learn and to resolve a conflict much faster.