About conflict resolution

Conflicts arise everywhere there are people. Many times we use the positive energy from our different perspectives and ideas to find new ways to do things and we may not label or see this as “conflict”.

Sometimes differences become a problem and get in the way of working together or one person feels that they have been unfairly treated. That’s where conflict resolution comes in. Our aim at Otago is to find ways of resolving difficulties and problems which work for all those involved. And that means that our needs and perspectives and experiences are recognised – as are those of the people we disagree with. It’s about “respect and dignity” for us all.

There are things you can do to improve your responses to conflict.

  • Try not to be defensive – the other person may not be attacking you but your defensive behaviour may well lead them to do so.
  • Focus on the behaviour or the ideas which you disagree with – avoid labelling (and blaming) the other person.
  • Remember that the other person has a reason for their views and behaviour which makes sense to them – just as your reason does to you. Finding out the reason is a key to finding a solution.
  • Keep an open mind. The difficulty you are experiencing may be a misunderstanding. Where possible assume that the other person has good intentions.
  • Look for a solution which works for both of you.

Sometimes the problem you are experiencing will be very serious and a formal complaint will be the appropriate response. Mostly formal complaints make a relationship worse so, where you need to keep working with the other person, it’s usually better to try an informal approach, a way of resolving the problem and maintaining a functioning relationship.

If your own self-help approach hasn’t worked – or you felt it was inappropriate or unwise to try it – getting a third person in to help may be the next step. You want that person to help you to solve the problem in a way you’re happy with, rather than taking over and giving you a decision. That way, you stay in control. A contact person or the mediator won’t solve the problem for you; they will help you identify issues and strategies you want to use. One of those strategies may be mediation.

University of Otago Conflict Resolution and Mediation Services