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15 Inspiring Conflict Resolution Quotes and Their Context

As much as we may wish it wasn’t the case, conflict is an inevitable part of life. Work, friendships, marriages, and other relationships can all be settings for misunderstandings, disagreements, and tension. With conflict resolution skills like active listening, empathy, and negotiation, conflict can lead to deeper connections, innovations, and better problem-solving. For inspiration, there are many quotes on the art of conflict resolution. Here are 15 examples:

#1. The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them. – Thomas Crum

Thomas Crum is an author and presenter on conflict resolution, peak performance, and stress management. His method – The Thomas Crum Approach – is designed to help people center themselves during conflict and become more effective under stress. As a teacher of Aikido, a type of martial art that relies on energy instead of force, Crum incorporates Aikido principles into his work. His quote gets to the heart of conflict resolution and how it can better peoples’ lives.

#2. Do not think of knocking out another person’s brains because he differs in opinion from you. It would be as rational to knock yourself on the head because you differ from yourself ten years ago. – Horace Mann

Horace Mann (1796-1859) was an American abolitionist and educational reformer. He advocated for universal and free education that taught students character and civic virtue as well as knowledge. While he held certain beliefs that have since been debunked (he supported prehnology), he was progressive in other areas. Mann’s quote asks people to remember they did not always hold the ideas and views they do now. This kind of self-reflection is important during disagreements.

#3. Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it. – Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi (1869-1948) was an Indian lawyer and anti-colonialist who relied on nonviolent resistance. As a leader in the campaign for India’s independence from the British, other human rights movements around the world embraced his words and tactics. This quote reframes what many may believe about “peace” and emphasizes a person’s response to conflict.

#4. Every conflict we face in life is rich with positive and negative potential. It can be a source of inspiration, enlightenment, learning, transformation, and growth-or rage, fear, shame, entrapment, and resistance. The choice is not up to our opponents, but to us, and our willingness to face and work through them. – Kenneth Cloke

Kenneth Cloke is a mediator, consultant, and trainer specializing in communication, negotiation, workplace disputes, and more. He has mediated conflicts and taught conflict resolution for decades in over 20 countries. His quote on conflict reveals how every conflict has the potential to turn out well or poorly. It also emphasizes how every person must take responsibility for the outcome and not hand it off to others.

#5. Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. – Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a man no doubt well-versed in conflict resolution. Among his many other accomplishments and careers, he was a diplomat and secured French aid for the American Revolution. He gives his name to the Ben Franklin Effect, a psychological phenomenon that suggests someone who has performed a favor is more likely to do another favor. Some people use this phenomenon in conflict resolution or when trying to gain allies. The quote above also deals with conflict resolution by reminding us that resolution includes being cautious about saying the wrong thing out of frustration.

#6. “When you find yourself stuck in an oversimplified polarized conflict, a useful first step is to try to become more aware of the system as a whole: to provide more context to your understanding of the terrain in which the stakeholders are embedded, whether they are disputants, mediators, negotiators, lawyers, or other third parties. This can help you to see the forest and the trees; it is a critical step toward regaining some sense of accuracy, agency, possibility, and control in the situation.” – Peter T. Coleman

Dr. Coleman is a social psychologist and researcher in conflict resolution and sustainable peace. He works as a professor and serves on the faculty in the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution master’s program at Columbia University. In his quote, he advocates for examining conflicts within their larger systems. He elaborates on this premise in his book The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to (Seemingly) Impossible Conflicts.

#7. When you have a conflict, that means that there are truths that have to be addressed on each side of the conflict. And when you have a conflict, then it’s an educational process to try to resolve the conflict. And to resolve that, you have to get people on both sides of the conflict involved so that they can dialogue.” – Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta is a civil rights activist and American labor leader with the United Farm Workers. As an organizer of the Delano grape strike in 1956 and lead negotiator for the workers’ contract, Huerta knows a thing or two about resolving conflicts. In her quote, she describes the importance of getting both sides of a conflict together.

#8. Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict. – Saul Alinsky

Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) was an American community activist and political theorist. His strategies and social justice advocacy made him a controversial figure even long after his death. He was no stranger to conflict. He advocated for both compromise and confrontation in community organizing. As his quote states, he understood that nothing could really change without the friction of conflict.

#9. Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. – Marie Curie

Marie Curie (1867-1934) was a chemist and physicist who is the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two scientific fields. She discovered polonium and radium. Her connection to conflict resolution isn’t obvious, but as a scientist, she understood the importance of curiosity and understanding. When engaging in conflict, her quote is worth remembering as many conflicts are driven by fear and certainty. By approaching conflict as something to be understood and not feared, resolution may come easier.

#10. Conflicts may be the sources of defeat, lost life and a limitation of our potentiality but they may also lead to a greater depth of living and the birth of more far-reaching unities, which flourish in the tensions that engender them. – Karl Jaspers

Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) was a German-Swiss philosopher and psychiatrist who influenced modern theology, philosophy, and psychiatry. In the above quote, he repeats a common view found in conflict resolution. Conflict is not inevitably good or bad but has the potential to be either. Conflict even has the potential to lead to deeper unities because of the tension.

#11. A solid rock is not disturbed by the wind; even so, a wise person is not agitated by praise or blame. – Dhammapada

The Dhammapada is one of the best-known Buddhist scriptures. Each saying is said to have been recorded in response to a specific situation in the lives of Buddha and his community. Buddhist teachings often touch on conflict and how to resolve them. There’s a strong emphasis on self-awareness and emotional regulation. In this quote, wisdom is associated with a lack of agitation in response to praise or blame. In conflict, a person is more likely to encounter blame. Remaining calm in the face of it is important.

#12. Conflict can and should be handled constructively; when it is, relationships benefit. Conflict avoidance is *not* the hallmark of a good relationship. On the contrary, it is a symptom of serious problems and of poor communication.”– Harriet B. Braiker

Dr. Harriet Braiker (1948-2004) was a psychologist, author, and expert on women’s issues, especially on how stress manifests in women. Considering conflict is a major stress trigger, it makes sense that Braiker would write about conflict. In her quote, she counters the common belief that a lack of conflict is a good sign for a relationship. Relationships without conflict are often the result of not communicating. When communication is healthy, conflicts are actually beneficial for relationships.

#13. If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. – Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader. He served as the country’s first Black head of state. As a leader, he helped negotiate the end of apartheid and prioritized reconciliation. The above quote highlights the framework that must have been necessary to Mandela’s worldview. This concept of language is essential to effective conflict resolution. Everyone has their own “language” and hearing it repeated back to them can ease tensions and encourage resolution.

#14. In case of dissension, never dare to judge till you’ve heard the other side. – Euripides

Euripides (484 BCE – 406 BCE) was a playwright from Athens. He was one of only three ancient Greek tragedians who had plays that survived. His quote shows how long certain conflict resolution strategies have existed. Understanding the other side is an essential piece of advice you’ll see over and over again. You can only judge once you know what the other side is saying. Judging beforehand – without all the information or other perspectives – makes it much harder to resolve a conflict.

#15. We don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is true with people. – Steve Goodier

Steve Goodier is an author who writes about motivation, inspiration, and personal development. He’s worked as a speaker and workshop leader for over two decades, in addition to being the founder of “Your Life Support System” and the Living Right Side Up daily life management system. His quote vividly supports the value of differences. Without differences, there may not be conflict, but there also isn’t harmony or innovation. With good conflict resolution skills, differences and diversity make any environment better.

About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.