Resolving conflict

Resolving conflict in a healthy way is important in any relationship. The Conflict Resolution Model is a way of responding to a possible conflict situation in an assertive manner. It involves five steps that can easily be memorized.

Conflict resolution
A new way to approach sensitive situations

It can be helpful to think of real-life situations to help you understand what is meant by assertiveness, so we’ll be using an example. Suppose you have been attending a weekly support group with a friend, and you have been driving your friend to these meetings for several weeks. In the last few days, however, he has not been ready when you have come to pick him up. His tardiness has resulted in both of you being late for meetings. Because you value being on time, this is something that bothers you a great deal.

Now let’s look at this situation using the Conflict Resolution Model.

The first step involves identifying the problem that is causing the conflict. It is important to be specific when identifying the problem. In this example, the problem causing the conflict is that your friend is late.

The second step involves identifying the feelings associated with the conflict. In this example, you may feel annoyance, frustration, or taken for granted.

The third step involves identifying the specific impact of the problem that is causing the conflict. In this example, the impact or outcome is that you are late for the meeting. The fourth step involves deciding whether to resolve the conflict or let it go. This may best be phrased by the questions, “Is the conflict important enough to bring up? If I do not try to resolve this issue, will it lead to feelings of anger and resentment?”

If you decide that the conflict is important enough, then the fifth step is necessary. The fifth step is to address and work towards resolving the conflict. This involves checking out the schedule of the other person. The schedule is important because you might bring up the conflict when the other person does not have the time to address it or when he or she may be preoccupied with another issue. Once you have agreed on a time with the person, you can describe the conflict, your feelings, and the impact of the conflict and ask for a resolution.

For example, the interaction may sound like this:

Joe: Hey, Frank, sorry I’m late.
Frank: Hi, Joe. Can I talk to you about that?
Joe: Sure. Is something wrong?
Frank: Joe, I’ve noticed you’ve been late for the last few days when I’ve come to pick you up. Today, I realized that I was starting to feel frustrated and a bit taken for granted. When you are late, we are both late for the meeting, which makes me uncomfortable. I like to be on time. I’m wondering if you can make an effort to be on time in the future.
Joe: Frank, I didn’t realize how bothered you were about that. I apologize for being late, and I will be on time in the future. I’m glad you brought this problem up to me.

Of course, this is an idealized version of an outcome that may be achieved with the Conflict Resolution Model. Joe could have responded unfavourably, or defensively, by accusing Frank of making a big deal out of nothing. Joe may have minimized and discounted Frank’s feelings, leaving the conflict unresolved.

The Conflict Resolution Model is useful even when conflicts are not resolved. Many times, you will feel better about trying to resolve a conflict in an assertive manner rather than acting passively or aggressively. Specifically, you may feel that you have done all that you could do to resolve the conflict. In this example, if Frank decided not to give Joe a ride in the future, or if Frank decided to end his friendship with Joe, he could do so knowing that he first tried to resolve the conflict in an assertive manner.

Resolving conflict: The steps

  1. Identify the problem that is causing the conflict
  2. Identify the feelings that are associated with the conflict
  3. Identify the impact of the problem that is causing the conflict
  4. Decide whether to resolve the conflict
  5. Work for resolution of the conflict
    1. How would you like the problem to be resolved?
    2. Is a compromise needed?

Still need help?

Access the Anglicare SQ Family Support Service (couples counselling), Living Without Violence (group program for men), or Stronger Relationships (education program) if you think you would benefit from some counselling or support around this issue.


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