Teaching Conflict Resolution to Adults

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Conflict threatens both productivity and happiness in the workplace. In this lesson, we will examine some aspects of teaching conflict resolution to adults.

Importance of Conflict Resolution

According to studies by CPP Inc., conflict in the workplace results in about $359 billion worth of lost productivity in the U.S. each year. These numbers alone speak to the importance of teaching conflict resolution to adults.

Conflict resolution is a process for resolving disagreements between two or more people. Let's look at some important points to consider when teaching conflict resolution to adults.

Interference in Healthy Conflict Resolution

The ultimate goal of conflict resolution is to preserve the relationship of the people who are disagreeing and create a solution that both parties can feel good about. While most conflicts seem silly when observed objectively, the fundamental need of both parties to feel validated and valued elevates the importance of the disagreement.

Some behaviors that get in the way of problem-solving include becoming overly emotional, attacking the other party, failing to recognize the emotions of the other party, and disrespecting differences. When one or both parties become flippant, explosive, hopeless, or distant, it becomes more difficult to find common ground.

Key Conflict Resolution Skills

Helping adults develop the following skills will enable them to settle differences in ways that keep relationships intact.

  • Remain calm. Adults can avoid escalating a conflict by counting to 10, doing breathing exercises, or finding other ways to reduce stress.
  • Learn to identify feelings. Sometimes negative feelings, such as grief, fear, and anxiety are expressed through anger or sadness. By recognizing your own feelings, you are more likely to understand your needs during the conflict resolution process.
  • Watch out for body language and tone of voice. When a person is upset, it is common for them to express nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, posture, and gestures, that are off-putting to the other party.

Additionally, care should be taken to focus on the current issue rather than bringing up old grudges. Like Richard Carlson says, 'Don't sweat the small stuff.' Let the little things go and always treat others with respect.

Active Listening

Being a good listener is the key to both avoiding and resolving conflict. Teaching active listening skills goes a long way in minimizing arguments. Here are some tips for active listening:

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