Problem-Solving Phrases for Conflict Resolution


Phrases that don’t work in conflict resolution: let’s look at some typical ways that people miss the mark in conflict resolution.

Mark and his wife, Allyson are arguing over his inability to get anywhere on time. Allyson is always embarrassed to come into social situations late.

Mark: “Well, you’ve got to tell me what’s got you so upset tonight at the wine tasting.”
Allyson: “I’m fine!”

Why it doesn’t work: Claiming to be okay with how the conflict resolution is going when you’re obviously hurt and upset is lying to yourself and the other person. If you start to act in an insincere manner, they start to question you ethics and your motivations.

Stephen, a real estate broker, has shown Deidre almost a hundred homes. She’s hated all of them, so he asks her what she wants in a home. He’s losing other commissions showing her homes she’s rejected, and he’s extremely frustrated. She throws up her hands and sighs “I don’t know!”

Why it doesn’t work: Sometimes you don’t consciously know, but you do have a responsibility to yourself and the other person to find out what you don’t know. If you’ve being coy or deceptive, the other person will almost always know that you are acting in a dishonest manner.

Leslie and her coworker always at odds. Leslie feels Matt is always stealing credit for her ideas. “You always find a way to take credit for just typing up my ideas!”

Why it doesn’t work: The words “always” and “never” stick the other person perpetually in the role of being the villain. And it sticks you in the victim role. Humans are always changing, and the truth is that no one always does the same thing in every similar situation.

“You decided that”

Why it doesn’t work: Remember the mind reading that we discussed earlier. When you tell someone that they made some decision that stepped on your toes, you’re basically accusing them of purposefully violating your rights. And you’re ascribing some pretty underhanded motivations to the other person. Remember, you can never know for certain what the other persons needs, motivations or feelings are unless they clearly state them to you.

Edward and his roommate, Charles are arguing over who buys supplies for the apartment. Charles accuses Edward of not contributing his share. Edward waves his hand and says, “Let’s just drop it and move on.”

Why it doesn’t work: The conflict is something that is obviously keeping both of you stuck. Glossing over something doesn’t make it disappear. It just makes it fester..

Words and phrases you can use for better conflict resolution:

“What is most important thing for that you want solved/that you want me to understand?” In some conflicts, there is one issue that’s being disputed. But in others, one or both parties will have several needs, and some o f them are more important than others. If you can get the other person to name the need that is their first priority, they will be more willing to compromise on lesser needs.

“Well, if you got (this thing you’re asking for), what would that do for you?” This can  be very helpful  when you just cannot comprehend why the other person is acting the way they are.   If you give  the other person space to reflect on their  motivations without criticism or judgement coming at them, they may be more able to name the wants and needs behind the strategies they are so fixated upon. You may be astounded at what comes out when you ask with a curious, open mind.

“What is it about this situation that’s not working for you?” It’s important to get the other person to focus on how the conflict resolution process is working for them, instead of focusing on you. If you can remove the situation from an interpersonal conflict, you can start to diffuse any emotions that are starting to boil over.

“Let me tell you in my words what I think you’re saying so we can make sure we’re on the same page.” Often we’re convinced that the rest of the world sees things exactly the way we do. But each of us sees it differently. In situations of stress and conflict everyone’s ability to communicate clearly is strained. When you repeat the other person’s words in the way that you’re receiving them (and in a completely respectful way, no mocking or mimicking), they can realize that they aren’t delivering the message that they think they are.

“Okay, let’s list what we do agree on.” Even if it’s just the fact that you’re both feeling frustrated, it’s common ground. And you can agree that you both want to come to an agreement that benefits each of you. The trick is to find the tiniest, even what feels like insignificant thing that you agree on, and try to build from there. Maybe you both want to end the conflict as quickly as possible, and you can start to make some compromises from that standpoint.

“What would you like to see happen?” One way to steer yourself towards conflict resolution is to ask the person outright not just what they want, but how they would like to see things end. It gets both of you in a mindset of thinking towards the end. Work your way backwards from the end, and figure out how to get there.

“How can we meet both of our needs?” Compromise is at the heart of conflict resolution. Just face the fact that nine times out of ten you’ll have to give up some things that you want, and so will the other person. But if you’re both actively trying to find a solution that meets both of you most important needs, the negotiations will go much smoother.

It’s a good idea to look at conflict resolution as a method to connect with the other person. If you can use try to understand what the other party wants and needs, you’ll have an good chance to connect with them. Having that connection allows you both to work towards a solution that you’ll both be able to live with.

One comment

  • CouchPotatoCop

    Phrases that never work:
    “cam down” — it dismisses the point of view and emotion of the person it’s directed to and actually increases their frustration.
    “don’t take this the wrong way” — has a zero percent success rate

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