Four Steps To Resolve Conflict

Having the ability to resolve a conflict can be learned. The four steps to resolve conflict outlined in this article are summarized from a well-known form of compassionate interaction called Nonviolent Communication.

This form of communication concentrates on empathy and compassion and has been shown to be extremely effective for quickly resolving a conflict and forming strong, healthy relationships.

Step 1 – Observe Without Judgement

“The concrete actions we observe that affect our well-being” – Nonviolent Communication

Usually when there is a conflict, it is because someone is behaving in a certain way that affects your well-being or vice versa.

The first step is to assess the situation without judgement. Simply observe what is happening without attaching any personal feelings or assumptions to it.

Let’s say that your friend Judy lies to you about taking one of your sweaters without your permission.

Observing the situation without judgement:

Judy is not telling me the truth about taking my sweater without my knowledge.

Observing the situation with judgement:

Judy is a liar and a thief and cannot be trusted.

Notice the difference in language, the first interpretation is very factual and objective. The second interpretation casts judgement, and makes assumptions about the situation.

When you cast judgement unto someone else, it creates an instant disconnect because when you judge you are not making the effort to understand them and be empathetic.

When people feel they are being judged they do not feel safe, and thus they will automatically become defensive. When one is in a defensive state of mind it is very unlikely that are in the right mood to connect with you or co-operate.


Step 2 – Identify Your Emotions

“How we feel in relation to what we observe” – Nonviolent Communication

Next you need to immediately identify exactly what you are feeling. Do not judge your feelings, just be aware of what they are.

Back to our example with Judy: Once having discovered that Judy took something of yours without your knowledge, and then was not honest with you when you confronted her about it, you would most likely feel angry and hurt.

Do not feel ashamed of, or try to repress your feelings. Your feelings originate from your needs, which leads us to our next step…


Step 3 – Identify Your Needs

“The needs, values, desires, etc. that create our feelings.” – Nonviolent Communication

Once you are aware of what you are feeling, it is time to get to the root of the problem, your needs. 

When your needs are not being met, that is when you experience negative emotions.

The opposite is also true, when your needs are being met, you will experience positive emotions.

Evidently in the circumstance of a conflict, there is some need of yours that is not being met.

Back to our example with Judy: Once you are aware that you are angry and hurt you discover it is because you feel that your need for respect is not being met. You may also feel that your need for trust in your friendship is not being met.

Step 4 – Create A Compassionate Request

“The concrete actions we request in order to enrich our lives.” – Nonviolent Communication

The first three steps involve you processing the situation and what is going on inside of yourself. This last step is your step of action to bring all of your insights into the tangible world.

You must first express your feelings and your needs to the other person and be vulnerable to them. This will encourage a deep connection because you are showing them that you are human and they will easily relate to you.

Then you can request a change in their behaviour that will meet your needs and “enrich your life”.

Example with Judy: “Judy, I feel angry and hurt about having my sweater taken without my knowledge. I need to feel respected and I need to feel a sense of trust in our friendship. Could you please return my sweater back to me and explain to me what happened?”

Usually, the other person will be receptive to your request and the conflict will be resolved. However, there can be exceptions as with most strategies that involve human interaction.

Remember the principle of assessing a circumstance without judgement, this is very important.

Also, keep in mind that this form of communication is very difficult at first, and it will take some time to master. Be patient, and take your time before speaking during a conflict to avoid saying the wrong thing and potentially creating more tension.

There is a lot more to this formula for resolving a conflict than what is offered in this article, and I invite you to read the complete work on Nonviolent Communication if you want to experience the full benefits of it.

Have you ever tried out the four steps of Nonviolent Communication during a conflict? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below.



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