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Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution
Five Strategies to Help Effectively Manage Conflict

1) Identify the conflict by acknowledging that it exists. This will help pave the way for a more peaceful resolution. “Some people perceive that the presence of conflict, in and of itself, is abnormal and indicative of something inherently wrong with the persons involved. In actuality, encountering conflict is an indication that you are human! We enter the world destined to experience conflict.”1 To help identify the conflict, you could ask, “Are there any points of disagreement? If so, what are they?”

2) Be realistic with your expectations regarding the communication as well as the conflict. Respect the person(s) with whom you are communicating, as well as their viewpoint and feelings. “When trying to resolve a situation, focus on things you can change. You can't change someone's beliefs or values. You can change tasks or plans.”2 For example, it may be helpful to ask, “What are some things we can modify, or revise, to help improve this situation?”

3) Add some humor or lightheartedness to the conversation. “You can avoid many confrontations and resolve arguments and disagreements by communicating in a humorous way. Humor can help you say things that might otherwise be difficult to express without offending someone. However, it’s important that you laugh with the other person, not at them.”3 Laughing at oneself can be an effective way to utilize humor to deescalate a situation and reduce tension.

4) Make a diligent effort to compromise. “This strategy emphasizes both parties giving up something they want in order to reach middle ground. This is a good method to use when both parties are willing to listen to the other's position.”4 One way to explore options and find middle ground could be to state, “I am willing to compromise. What options do you have in mind? Do you have any ideas as to how we can reach a mutual understanding?” It is important to accept the fact that you do not have to always be right or win an argument. Sometimes, it may be more beneficial to walk away with a mutual agreement to disagree in order to keep the relationship intact and preserve the integrity of the conversation.

5) Avoid lashing out or resorting to emotional outbursts. Instead, utilize evenhanded, fair-minded and noncombatant language. “When people are in conflict they use inflammatory language such as profanity, name calling, and exaggerations that escalate the conflict. Restate inflammatory language in a more objective way to help make the information less emotionally laden and more useful for future discussions.”5 For example, if a student says to you, “You are a liar!” A calm, neutral response would be, “It sounds as though you believe the information is not true. Would you like to share why you feel that way?” Remember, the manner in which you respond to the conflict can amplify or diminish the magnitude of the situation.

REFERENCES

5 Tips for Managing Conflict, College of Communication & Information, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 302 Communications, 1345 Circle Park Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996-0332, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996. https://www.cci.utk.edu/5-tips-managing-conflict.
Puzzled about Teams, Handbook by Tracy Gill, Kara Heermans, and Roshani Herath, page 8, Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, The Pennsylvania State University, 301 Rider Building, 227 West Beaver Avenue, University Park, PA 16801-4819. https://www.schreyerinstitute.psu.edu/pdf/PuzzledAboutTeams2.pdf. (citing Olshak, Richard T. (1997). Training peer mediators in the college and university setting: A participant's guide. Normal, IL: Campus Judicial Consulting, Inc., The Illinois State University; and Woods, John. (1997). 10 minute guide to teams and teamwork. New York, NY: Alpha Books.)
Conflict Resolution Skills: Building the Skills That Can Turn Conflicts into Opportunities, by Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A. Helpguide.org. Last updated: September 2018. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/conflict-resolution-skills.htm.
Puzzled about Teams, Handbook by Tracy Gill, Kara Heermans, and Roshani Herath, page 7, Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, The Pennsylvania State University, 301 Rider Building, 227 West Beaver Avenue, University Park, PA 16801-4819. https://www.schreyerinstitute.psu.edu/pdf/PuzzledAboutTeams2.pdf. (citing Olshak, Richard T. (1997). Training peer mediators in the college and university setting: A participant's guide. Normal, IL: Campus Judicial Consulting, Inc., The Illinois State University; and Woods, John. (1997). 10 minute guide to teams and teamwork. New York, NY: Alpha Books.)
Tips for Managing Conflict, Clarke University, Drive, Dubuque, IA 52001. https://www.clarke.edu/campus-life/health-wellness/counseling/articles-advice/tips-for-managing-conflict/.

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