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Tip Perspective Lost: A Key to Resolving Conflicts

Conflict is when two parties disagree about something of importance to each.  When you are in a conflict, you grow increasingly aware of what you see as the central issues, of their importance and their justification.  You become sensitized to how you are being affected by the issues as well as the other person’s behaviors.  You become attentive to how you feel.

But as our introspection waxes, our awareness of the other person wanes.  Most of us know a lot less about how the other person is affected, and how he or she views it.  In fact, you may have heard a friend at one time explaining that the “other person” in their conflict simply wants to make them miserable, or to get back at them for some past misunderstanding.  This is rarely true, however.  Like yourself, most other people engage in conflict because they really do have genuinely different interests, expectations, information, or values. 

The key to resolving a conflict usually lies in understanding the issues and affects from the perspectives of both parties.  How would you answer the following questions?

  • What are most the most important issues to her/him?
  • How does the other person feel about the dispute?
  • How would s/he define the problem(s) that need to be resolved?
  • How would s/he describe my behavior in this dispute?
  • How has my behavior in the dispute affected her/him ?

When you can answer these questions, you will have discovered a potentially important key for unlocking the dispute!  Those concerns are the reason that other person is in conflict with you. If you can propose alternative solutions that address his or her concerns, you are far along the path of resolving the issues.  Even more than resolving the immediate dispute, you have begun to construct a foundation for a more positive working relationship.

This tip is based on an article by Tom Sebok called “Preparing for your Mediation”, on the Mediate.Com site.  Retrieved on 3-1-10 from