How To Promote Effective Conflict Resolution Through Empathy

Often with conflicts come a few barriers that can hinder the opportunities for resolution and that can actually aggravate the situation. When that happens this can make the situation worse. The result can be that managers end up spending a larger amount of time on conflict resolution on conflicts in the workplace. The issues may be from the people they lead, peers, interactions with their boss, clients, other colleagues, vendors, or other stakeholders. Many studies have shown that conflicts incur both direct costs and indirect costs, affecting the overall productivity of your organization. The question is how can you reduce these costs?

There are proven techniques and approaches to conflict resolution, but often we present barriers ourselves to this process. Instead of being there to help and keeping an open and curious mind, you may become defensive. You may not consider something to be significant, but in the eye of the beholder, it may be deemed significant. You may jump to a conclusion as an immediate knee-jerk reaction without taking the time to fully understand the situation. It is important to identify, address, and work to resolve these issues before they grow into much bigger issues.

Being Defensive

Being defensive is a natural reaction when something happens, disappoints you, makes you angry and raises your blood pressure. Recognizing the reaction is the first step toward remaining focused, staying calm and addressing the concern. Be tough on the problem and gentle on the people. When you become angry this limits your ability to listen and understand the perspective of the other person on the issue. In other words, your defensive response closes the door to two-way communication. Closing the door to two-way communication detracts from trust, loyalty, and understanding. For a constructive resolution, it is important to ask questions with a genuine interest in understanding so that you can understand the facts, the issues, the feelings behind the issues and the interests of the parties involved. You need to be patient. Listen actively to the other party. Keep an open mind. Focus on being understanding to gain insight of each other’s perspectives rather than being defensive. Considering the Topic as Insignificant When somebody comes to you with a conflict and vents their frustration, be there to listen. Paraphrase what was said. Summarize what you heard as key elements. Ask open-ended questions to gain a better understanding. You need to respond appropriately and be authentic. Your initial perception may be that the issue is of little concern, but this may not be the case with the individual. If you do not demonstrate appropriate concern, this may exacerbate the situation. You cannot control the other party’s perspective. Do not dismiss their feelings. Focus on gaining insight into the root cause behind their feelings. For that, you need to ask them open-ended questions and gain further insight. You want to fully understand their perspective on the situation. It is not about whether their feelings are right or wrong, it is about understanding the root cause of the conflict.

Jumping to Conclusions Without Knowing the Facts

The human brain likes to be right, have a sense of control, be able to predict what will happen and make progress. It is a human tendency to quickly draw conclusions based on past experiences. In some instances, this works out great. When addressing a complicated or emotional concern, it is important to slow down, suspend judgment and not offer advice quickly. When you jump to a conclusion without knowing all of the pertinent facts you may even make the conflict worse. Then the conflict can be even more challenging to resolve. Be advised it is always advised to obtain both sides to any conflict to more fully understand the story from both sides before coming to any conclusion.

These are just a few ideas for overcoming these common barriers that may help you with understanding the situation and helping the parties to come to a proper resolution. You can also reach out to an experienced mediator who can help you and your team with conflict resolution training or as a mediator.


Michael Gregory at Michael Gregory Consulting LLC is a qualified mediator who would be happy to speak with you about your concerns. For more information visit

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