By Mystie Johnson-Foote, MD

Yes, that’s right, conflict is good! Conflict allows us to have and share differing opinions and expand our perceptions and improve our situations. However, conflict can become “bad” when we allow our differences of opinion to become a barrier to progress. When conflict becomes “bad”, it must be addressed for us to move forward productively. The outcome of resolved “bad” conflict can lead us to have deeper, more meaningful relationships with coworkers, family, and friends.

The first step to take in conflict resolution is checking yourself. If you determine that you are part of the conflict, it may be helpful to utilize another person, a mediator, to help you resolve the conflict. For this discussion, let’s assume that you are the person facilitating conflict resolution. As a facilitator, your first step remains, check yourself. Remember that unless there is a specific rule or guideline that must be adhered to, a facilitator should not pick sides. Remaining neutral and providing safety for the discussion requires that you are self-aware and manage your own reactions in the discussion.

Next, get the whole story. All of those involved in the conflict have their own perception of the situation. While sorting through what happened, it is important to hear everything and support a feeling of safety in the discussion. This is a great place to use powerful questions. Remember, powerful questions typically start with “what”, “how,” or “if” (rather than “why”)—they are open-ended. Simple starts could include, what happened? How did you feel? How did you react?

As the conversation proceeds, it will be helpful to get more specific. As a facilitator, you want to find out if this is a new or old issue. More powerful questions will help you get there, such as, how long has this been happening? What may have contributed to the current situation? What would you like to see happen from here?

Ultimately, a facilitator should bring individuals to common ground. They may be coaching one party to have the conversation with another party or bring individuals together for the discussion. Keep those powerful questions going during the conversation and reframe and seek agreement between individuals often.

By using powerful questions, you help the individuals dig deeper and self-inquire for their own answers, this helps create clarity, awareness and understanding. This can help immensely when you are seeking to create connection and understanding between two people of dissenting opinions.