Resolve the Conflict By Focusing on the Problem, Not the Person

Through negotiation or mediation, the goal is to resolve the dispute between the parties so each can at least have some of their needs met and both sides can move on personally, professionally and financially. That may be accomplished best by focusing on the issues, not the people or personalities involved.

The Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach to resolving issues is discussed in a recent Lifehack article. It was created by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 best-selling book Getting to Yes. The approach suggests,

  • Separating the people involved, their emotions and the problem, and
  • Building mutual understanding and respect because it will strengthen bonds between parties which can ultimately help resolve conflicts in a harmonious way.

There are six steps in this approach,

  1. Prioritize Good Relationships

Show the parties that the conflict can result in mutual trouble, but through negotiation, it can be resolved. The best outcome can be reached if all of the parties can work together. This way the focus is away from blame. Finger pointing just undermines the relationship between the parties and aggravates the problem.

  1. People Are NOT the Cause of the Problem

State that the problem is not one-sided, the parties need to work together, and the dispute shouldn’t be taken personally. The point is not making accusations but addressing the problem. If taken personally, addressing the issue can become emotional and the process can get out of control with the parties unable to see a complete and clear picture of the problem. If each party looks at the problem from the other’s perspective they may understand why there are different opinions.

  1. Listen From ALL Stances

This can be done when blaming is off the table. Ask for everyone’s opinions and let the parties feel like they’re contributing to the discussion. Tell them their involvement is essential to solving the problem because no one wants to be ignored. If a party feels neglected, it’s likely he or she will be aggressive or decide not to cooperate.

  1. Listening Comes First, Talk Follows

Make sure each party has listened to the other’s point of view. They can take turns to speak and later discussions can take place. Reinforce that the issue is not personal and no accusations are to be made. By taking turns, everyone has a chance to speak. This promotes a willingness to listen to opposing opinions.

  1. Understand the Facts, Then Address the Problem

Ask the parties to say what they know about the problem. One party may not know a fact known by the other and different facts can lead to different perceptions of the matter. This can help everyone better understand the problem, and it can lead to a solution.

  1. Solve the Problem Together

Once you know what the parties are thinking and all the facts are out, it’s time to resolve the conflict. Everyone should understand the problem better, and the parties should suggest solutions. Both need to participate, so one doesn’t feel excluded and as more suggestions are made it’s more likely the most suitable one will rise to the top. It also makes it more likely that all parties will feel satisfied with the result.

Though the parties are on opposite sides of a dispute, they need to work together to put the conflict behind them. Focusing on the problem and how to solve it and turning away from blame, emotions, and individuals may give you the best chance to reach a fair resolution for your client.