Four Steps to Help Settle Personal Conflicts

calm sea

Calm Sea - photo by D. Hennessey

I really don’t like conflicts but then again who does? What follows is one approach to conflict resolution I learned a few years ago from a conflict resolution trainer. Please read over this approach. It is a system you can use with children as well as adults since the steps are quite straight forward.

Note: if the conflict is very intense it can be easier to have a person who was not in the conflict to help the participants work through the steps.

So here goes:

Step One

Get Calm

The idea here is that both people (assuming there are only two people in the conflict) give each other space and calm down. This may require one person to leave the room for minutes or hours or…

Whatever space is required let this space happen then when both people are calm enough to see each other face to face you move to the second step.

Personally, I have tried to resolve a conflict in the heat of the moment and well, it rarely seems to work. I believe it is because as a man I always want to find a solution (for explanation on what I mean see book noted below) but in fact, it never works for me. What I always need to do is tell the other person I need space and I go calm down.

Note: There is a timeless book on the difference between male and female communication strategies. I have read the book many times. It is called Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. If you don’t have a copy of this classic best seller I recommend you get one and perhaps give a copy to someone you know as a gift if they are experiencing relationship challenges.


Step Two

Talk about the Facts and Feelings

Once everyone involved is calm each person takes a turn to share the facts about what happened as he or she saw it (I did x and she did y).

At the same time the same person speaking about the facts can also share the feelings they are experiencing (I feel anger, sadness…) as a result of what happened. This sharing of feelings is in the first person i.e. I feel sad not the third person i.e. you made me sad.

At no time does the other person listening speak they just need to listen.

Then when the first person is finished speaking the next person speaks. Neither person is to use their chance to speak to condemn the other person. The idea is simply to share facts and feelings.

Step Two can on for as long as necessary moving back and forth between the participants till it is agreed all that needs to be shared at that time is shared.

Note: A good way to make sure one person is finished sharing before the next person starts is to practice a technique North American Native Indians sometimes use. It is the practice of using a ‘talking stick’. (Follow this link for an image of a Hand Crafted Reproduction Talking Stick and then click back on your browser to return to this article.

A talking stick is a stick that is passed to the person who is going to speak and when the person is finished speaking they pass the stick to the next person whose turn it is to speak. The giving away of the stick shows the speaker is finished speaking. By the way, the tradition of the talking stick I learned from reading the works of Dr. Steven Covey who is the author of many best selling books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People


Step Three

Search for Possible Solutions

Both people (again assuming only two people are involved) offer up possible solutions to help heal the conflict. They could be a few or a lot of solutions offered. The solutions are often best written down just like in the process of brainstorming without any critique as to whether they will work or not. The goal right now is to find solutions.

Once it appears like all possible solutions are shared you move to the forth step.


Step Four

Find and Agree on a Peaceful Solution

Both people involved together review the solutions suggested and decide on what is the best solution. Bear in mind the best solution available may not be a perfect solution but you have to work with what you have.

Once decided on the solution is applied. The hope, as always, is the solution works but as in life there are no guarantees.

Indeed, ending conflict is not always easy but I believe the above steps can help you on your way to solving conflicts at home and at work.

Helpful Hint: Once way to make sure your first test of using this technique works is to grab a small piece of paper (or index card) right now and write down the steps (reviewed below) on the paper and put the paper somewhere you will easily find it (wallet, purse…) Then when a conflict happens take out the paper and make a suggestion to work through the steps. Of course, wait till everyone involved is calm before you pull out the paper or you may get burned along with the paper.


Here is a quick review to help resolve conflicts


Get Calm



Talk about Facts and Feelings



Search for possible Solutions



Find and Agree on a Peaceful Solution


Note again these steps come with no guarantee of success but what have you got to loose. Personally, they have helped me and friends and clients. Let me know your experience.

Best of Success,