Conflict resolution is the process of settling disputes and reaching peaceful resolutions. It’s often used in workplace settings when there’s conflict between coworkers, supervisors, or departments, but the skills apply to friendships, family relationships, and romantic relationships. Why is the conflict resolution process important? Here are 15 reasons:
#1. It can be adjusted based on what works best in a situation
According to experts, there are five conflict resolution styles: avoiding, competing, accommodating, comprising, and collaborating. Avoiding, which can involve separating the opposing parties for a time, is a good choice when the situation is heated and everyone needs to cool down. Competing, which deals with conflict directly, can get faster results, but the approach of “my way or the highway” can damage relationships further. The accommodating style is the opposite and means you give in to the other person/group. It can work when a compromise is not possible, the other person is the expert, or when the other person is more invested than you.
Comprising, which is referred to as “lose-lose,” is when each side agrees to compromise and make sacrifices. It can keep the peace, but it often fails to address the deeper issues. The collaborating style takes the most time and effort but may create the best long-term results and best relationships. Every party’s needs are considered and by the end, everyone is satisfied.
#2. Conflict resolution is necessary for many careers
Many jobs focus on conflict resolution, such as legal mediators, arbitrators, and contract negotiators. Within these fields, people specialize in areas like family, education, labor/management, and more. Conflict resolution experts also frequently work as consultants for corporations and other organizations. If an organization isn’t able to resolve a conflict on its own, it may call in an outside meditator. Even if you aren’t focused on conflict resolution, most careers benefit from some conflict resolution skills, especially if you work in management, run your own business, or work with the public.
#3. Poorly-handed conflict can have serious consequences
Whether it’s in the workplace or in your personal life, conflict is inevitable. How it’s handled determines whether the outcome is positive or negative. If people go into a conflict lacking the necessary skills, disagreements quickly sink to blaming, insults, emotional dysregulation, and pain. A workplace can become a tense, stressful environment where people don’t feel respected (or even safe), while personal relationships can fracture beyond repair. While you can’t avoid conflict, you can prepare for it and handle it in a way that’s productive, not destructive.
#4. Conflict resolution teaches active listening
Active listening is one of the most important skills a person can have. In conflict resolution, no style can work if you aren’t actively paying attention to what the person/parties are saying. To listen actively, you need to set aside your assumptions, keep an open mind, respond to a person using their words, and ask clarifying questions. In conversations, especially disagreements, many people fail to really listen and are simply waiting for their turn to speak. With active listening, you’re focused on understanding the other person.
#5. It teaches patience
Resolving conflicts takes time. Ideally, everyone is heard and their wishes are made clear. The more complex a conflict is, the longer it will take. Even relatively simple conflicts can take time if there are a lot of people involved. The collaborating style, which is sometimes called the “win-win” approach, often gives the best results, but it takes the most time. To be successful in this style, you’ll need to be patient.
#6. It teaches you to separate conflict from the people involved
When conflict arises, it’s easy to project negative feelings on others in an unhelpful way. This can quickly turn a conflict into a good vs. evil situation. When this mindset is present, any progress can become derailed. Attention shifts to the people involved and not the actual conflict. People can take things too personally. With conflict resolution, however, one goal is to remain attentive but emotionally neutral if possible. The conflict may be important, but it doesn’t need to hold a deeper meaning about the goodness of the people involved. When you focus on the conflict – not the people – it’s easier to talk to one another and hopefully reach a resolution.
#7. It teaches more open communication
Strong conflict resolution skills don’t stop being relevant when a conflict ends. Skills like active listening, patience, and emotional impartiality continue to matter in relationships where conflict has been present. The parties involved should maintain open communication to ensure everyone is happy with how things are going. If more conflict presents itself, a history of open communication prevents a lot of problems before they escalate. In this way, conflict resolution is also about stopping conflicts from emerging in the place.
#8. It teaches assertiveness
A key part of conflict resolution is clear communication. For many people, communicating is difficult because they have trouble articulating their feelings. They may feel nervous about stating what they want. A conflict resolution setting with a good mediator encourages people to be clear. Assertiveness is valuable and when it’s done well, it can lead to a faster resolution. People who negatively associate “assertive” with “aggressive” will learn how these are different and that being assertive is useful in many situations.
#9. It teaches empathy
Every relationship – whether it’s with a coworker, a romantic partner, or a friend or family member – is improved by empathy. Most people are naturally empathetic to some degree, but empathy is also a skill that can be sharpened. For those wanting to improve their conflict resolution skills, empathy serves as a foundation for active listening, patience, and open communication. When your empathy is strong, you can understand another person’s feelings, connect with them emotionally, and respond appropriately. They will feel heard and respected, which makes resolving a conflict much easier.
#10. Conflict resolution helps you deal with stress
Most people feel very stressed when they’re engaged in conflict. There’s often a sense of helplessness, frustration, or even anger. When no one knows how to navigate the conflict well, the fear of escalation can be significant. In response to this fear, avoidance may become a more frequent temptation even though burying a problem tends to make it worse later. Conflicts are less intimidating and stressful when you have the skills to turn down the temperature. You’ll feel more prepared to engage in conflicts you might have ignored before.
#11. Conflict resolution helps groups reach their goals
In the workplace, conflicts can take a significant toll on productivity. If disputes are ignored or handled badly, things can escalate to the point where they rupture an organization. Employees may lose faith in the organization’s ability to function and they may even quit. To meet its goals and retain employee trust, organizations must embrace conflict resolution. The process takes time away from a project temporarily, but ignoring simmering conflicts leads to a much worse outcome.
#12. Conflict resolution can spark innovations
During a good conflict resolution process, everyone gets a chance to speak their mind. When skills like active listening and patience are present, involved parties are exposed to unique perspectives and new ideas. The group may come up with a new way to solve a problem, which can lead to interesting innovations. When looked at through this lens, conflict is actually a sign that an organization is home to a lot of diversity. If everyone agreed with each other all the time, there wouldn’t be conflict but there also wouldn’t be much innovation. For good things to come from conflict, conflict resolution skills are essential.
#13. Conflict resolution strengthens romantic relationships
According to a survey of almost 1,000 adults, couples who argue are more likely to enjoy a happy relationship compared to couples who avoid difficult topics. How couples argue matters, however. If the individuals lack good communication skills or refuse to listen to their partner’s perspectives, arguing more frequently won’t increase their happiness. Poor communication is one of the biggest reasons why couples break up. For couples with good conflict resolution skills – like active listening, patience, and open communication – working through conflict can strengthen a relationship and make each person feel heard and respected.
#14. Conflict resolution skills are good for kids
When kids encounter conflict, they often respond with strong, confusing emotions. Their reactions can also be confusing, even to themselves. Adults can help kids navigate conflict by teaching them classic conflict resolution skills like taking time to cool down, identifying the root of the conflict, and trying to understand other perspectives. This strengthens a child’s emotional intelligence and ability to maintain social connections with others.
#15. Conflict resolution is important for people in recovery
Conflict is a common trigger for people recovering from addictions. Without the necessary skills or experience navigating conflicts in a healthy way, a difficult situation or argument with a loved one can send a person back into their addiction. Good recovery programs include conflict resolution classes that help people build new skills and strategies for dealing with conflict in their lives. Conflict resolution is also essential for conflicts that arise within a recovery group. Group leaders need excellent skills in this area.