Conflict is a misunderstanding that often manifests as a quarrel between at least two parties.

Not every conflict situation is pleasant, but we can solve interpersonal relationships faster and more effectively by taking conscious steps in communication.

1. Activate Mutual Understanding

When we decide to take an active part in resolving a conflict and managing it effectively, we must start by understanding a different perspective.

The conflict arises due to a misunderstanding of one or both sides.

We are in conflict, and we quarrel because we do not understand the same thing in the same way.

The exciting thing about human psychology is that we crave the most for someone just to understand us.

It is even less important to us whether other people will agree with us or our opinion.

The ingrained opinion that the most important thing for us is to be right and agree with us is not a priority, but it is more critical that the other side understands us.

And that means – that the other person understands our view of things, to feel how we felt, what we needed and what it would mean to us in a particular situation. With people who understand us, we have the closest relationship and tremendous trust. These are usually our closest friends and associates.

Why is understanding essential in resolving conflict?

When we invest energy to put ourselves in another person’s shoes, we see everything she sees, we hear what she hears, we feel what she felt in the conflict, and we really understand and understand her perspective, thus encouraging exactly that same empathy on the other side.

2. Listen to the other person, FIRST

When we conflict, we want to resolve the whole situation as soon as possible and get out of that inconvenience, often with the first impulse to tell the other side what I have about the entire situation.


The rule of thumb in conflict management and negotiation is not to provoke a defensive attitude in another person!

Because when that happens, that’s where every conversation and conflict resolution or negotiation ends.

When you attack another person with your arguments, attitudes, opinions, at that moment, imagine A metal wall that rises between you and the other person because that’s how your communication looks metaphorically.

At that point, you have triggered the defense mechanism of the other person in the conflict, and they no longer listen to you, let alone understand you.

Human nature is such that it does not react to the solutions that are imposed.

Suppose you come first to express your opinion, or offer solutions, perhaps with the best intentions. In that case, it can cause the other person an automatic adverse reaction, and they will not be willing to show empathy for you or your opinion.

Therefore, by giving preference to the other side in expression, we consciously choose to resolve the conflict. In this way, we can encourage empathy and understanding and further open the channel for effective communication.

The hardest part is hearing what the other person has to say or express.

Sometimes it isn’t easy to listen calmly and give space to another person to tell their story, their truth, or express their experience of the whole situation when we disagree.

To begin with, it is important that we make a conscious decision to listen to the other side first.

Then we can prepare ourselves, that it will be uncomfortable: that many things will not suit us, when we listen to the story of the other side, and that we may not agree with any item.

But with conscious choice, preparation, and readiness, we make a conscious choice to resolve the conflict.

3. Avoid making assumptions

When we prepare not to condemn and only listen to the other person, we will not immediately express disagreement.

Therefore, our experience of the conflict situation will be significantly different.

Let’s take it from How the mediation or court process is done.

When the parties are in the process of a formal or less formal conflict resolution, the goal is for the mediator or judge to determine what exactly occurred—focusing on the FACTS!

So, without condemnation, assumptions, or opinions, the mediator establishes the facts, the sequence of events, and, above all, understands what happened. Only after understanding and affirming the facts can a solution or a decision be proposed.

This example can serve to resolve misunderstandings successfully.

What prevents us from resolving misunderstandings on our own is that we often rely on our assumptions.

To resolve a conflict, we need to give space to the other person to present their opinion and express how they experienced a particular event or situation, open-minded and without prior condemnation or taking a stand of our own.

By openly and actively listening to the other person, with great interest and curiosity, as if we knew nothing about our misunderstanding beforehand, we will avoid an assumption that can only slow down the whole process.

When you listen to another person in this way, you will be able to open up to new information and potentially new insights without condemnation or disagreement.

Don’t guess, instead-clarify.

If we have not understood what the other person represents, or we assume, the surest way to get clarification is to ask a question.

When we ask open questions, then we allow ourselves to clarify or explain the situation.

We often assume what the other wanted to say, what she thought, and conclude based on what does not necessarily correspond to the absolute truth.

4. Focus on a win-win solution

Focus on a solution that would be acceptable to both parties.

To constructive approach is to start with the things you agree on.

When we have similar opinions, understanding, then our connection with another person strengthens.

In the negotiations and in the process of resolving the conflict, neither side wants to lose.

A win-lose situation is unlikely. No one will voluntarily decide to leave something to you and lose theirs.

The solution is always somewhere in between. It can involve an inevitable compromise so that someone can be ready to turn something away, but only if it satisfies the needs.

In conflict resolution and negotiation, more important than meeting interests is meeting needs

Humans are often driven by hidden emotional needs, although we seem to be guided by reason and logic.

That is why we do not react well to the imposed solutions, even though they are better for us.

In seeking a solution to a conflict, it is useful to ask open-ended questions.

Open questions focus our mind on seeking solutions and meeting the needs of both parties.

It is more helpful to ask how we can solve this than a closed question: Would you accept this (imposed) solution.

By asking open-ended questions, you will start a creative process, and new possibilities will open up, which you were not previously aware of that can meet both needs’ needs.

5 . Avoid low blows

Both sides affected by the conflict are very sensitive and can quickly feel hurt. However, it is essential to avoid personal insults and low blows.

To resolve a conflict, you need to focus on that particular situation and the current problem.

Personal insults and comments that do not lead to a solution to the problem will only deepen the conflict and not lead you to a solution but a more significant quarrel or even a break in communication.

Any accusation, insult, or belittling will take you to the other side of an even bigger conflict.

Of course, if the other person resorts to such behavior, it is essential to set clear boundaries and determine what is acceptable and what is not permitted.

6. Take responsibility for your feelings

In the misunderstanding, we are all affected and hurt, and if it were not so, it would be easier to resolve the conflict.

During conflict management, the most important thing is to learn to manage our emotions. That means we channel them the right way before everything because we can’t help but feel emotions.

The other person can talk and do whatever he wants, but it is up to you to manage communication and set your boundaries adequately.

Avoid statements: I feel bad because of you. or YOU annoy me and stuff. Set clear boundaries, and also communicate your emotions.

Take responsibility for your feelings, and express your experiences more constructively:

When (THIS) happened, I felt (LIKE THIS)

We, as humans, are not robots. Although we want to keep it cool and resolve the conflict politely and neutrally, it is OK to express our feelings assertively.

That does not mean that we should react when we are overwhelmed by negative feelings, but that we channel, manage and communicate them in the right way, also keeping in mind the goal of our communication.

It is helpful to ask a question: What is the goal of this communication?

  • Is the goal in conflict management, to pour all negative emotions on the other person, or is the goal to reach a solution as soon as possible?
  • Which goal and path will benefit you the most, in the long run or in the short term?

It is essential that we consciously choose the goal and per the desired path so that we react.

If we allow ourselves to be driven by feelings, that is, other people’s opinions and reactions, we first take away the power to control the process and give it into the hands of only another person.

We are emotional beings, but we also have an executive function of the brain, which is vital to activate decision-making. And that means making selective and conscious reactions and learning new skills.


  • Dr. Aleksandra Plazinic

    Executive Communications Coach, University Lecturer, Ph.D. Communications

    With a Ph.D. in communications, two master's degrees, being certified NLP coach and trainer, lecturer, and consultant with vast international professional experience in business consultancy, international organizations: European Commission, United Nations, non-profit organizations, and University setting, I worked with professionals from all over the world and helped them advance in their careers and personal lives by overcoming the fears, building their self-confidence and developing their public speaking and communication skills.