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7 strategies to manage conflict

Wherever there are people, there always will be conflict. It’s a simple fact of life. Opinions vary, and miscommunication and misunderstandings occur. People have differing values and priorities, and most of us resist change. All of these things create conflict in our life and work.

The problem is not conflict itself, but rather how we deal with it. The good news is effective conflict management strategies can be learned and mastered. While there are many different types of conflict, let’s discuss some strategies for managing interpersonal conflict.

Deal with the situation

Most people prefer to avoid conflict. I’ve heard from many nurses who actually have quit their jobs rather than attempt to resolve an interpersonal conflict at work. This almost never is a good solution, and it usually leads to feelings of regret and guilt. Besides, if you quit every time you have a conflict on the job, you’ll be quitting every job you ever have in a short period of time.

If you ignore or avoid it, it can lead to increased stress and unresolved feelings of anger, hostility and resentment. When you learn to manage conflict effectively, you’ll be happier and healthier, physically and emotionally. You’ll have better relationships. You’ll be a better leader, a better team member and a better person. You’ll gain respect, improve your self-esteem and build courage. You’ll get more of what you want.

Think it through

Before addressing the person with whom you have a conflict, consider discussing the situation with an objective friend or family member. This can help to clarify issues and needs. Seek feedback and advice in dealing with the situation. But be careful not to rely on the opinion of an involved third party who may have his or her own agenda. Plan your strategy, including what you want to say, and then write it down and rehearse it. Create a note card, if necessary, with your main talking points. This will help you to feel more in control and stay on target.

Talk it out, face to face

Meeting in person can be intimidating, but it is often the best way to go. Face-to-face communication is more effective than other forms because it allows for an active exchange of information. It gives you the opportunity to make use of the handshake, a smile, eye contact, hand gestures and other important body language. It also allows you to observe important nonverbal cues from the other party.

Set aside time to meet with the person face-to-face at a mutually convenient time and place. When possible, meet on “neutral turf” rather than one of your offices so no one has the “home court” advantage.

E-mail and letter writing should be avoided, if possible, to resolve conflict or to discuss sensitive topics, problems or hurt feelings. It is too impersonal and indirect and increases the risk of miscommunication and misunderstanding. A phone call is the next best thing when in-person meetings aren’t possible.

Use a mediator, if necessary

If a situation is particularly volatile or troublesome and other efforts have not worked, you might invite a neutral third party, such as a supervisor, to act as a mediator if this is agreeable to all concerned. A mediator can remain objective, listen to both sides, and facilitate resolution and compromise. Be firm on your objectives; you’re there to resolve a conflict, not defeat an opponent.

Apologize when appropriate

Be aware of your own part in creating the conflict. If you’ve done something wrong or inappropriate, be willing to acknowledge it and say you’re sorry, even if the conflict is not entirely a result of your actions. Sometimes you have to meet people halfway to get to where you want to go.

There always will be differing opinions and ways of doing things. Decide which issues you can live with and which need addressing. If you bring up only the most important issues, you will develop credibility. On the other hand, if you make an issue about everything, you’ll be labeled a complainer. Then, when you have a legitimate beef, you likely will be ignored like the fabled boy who cried wolf.

Take steps to minimize conflict at work before it happens. Work at developing good relationships with coworkers and colleagues. Get to know people. Be friendly and sociable. Everyone has different needs and priorities and comes from different cultural backgrounds. Contrary to what you’ve heard, familiarity breeds respect.

Work on your communication skills

The ability to express yourself clearly will allow you to say what’s on your mind, ask for what you want and need and get your point across. There is an expression that a problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.

Avoid troublemakers as much as possible; they will suck you in and drag you down. Don’t engage in gossip or backstabbing. Get the facts before jumping to conclusions about something you’re heard through the grapevine. Know when it’s appropriate to walk away from a confrontation, and always consider the source in the face of criticism or hurtful comments.

Conflict can’t be avoided, but it can be minimized and resolved. Although avoidance sometimes seems like the easy way out, facing conflict head-on in an appropriate and professional manner will lead to better relationships, a more productive work environment and empowerment.


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By | 2018-09-28T18:28:50+00:00 November 28th, 2011|Categories: Nursing careers and jobs|10 Comments

About the Author:

Donna Cardillo
Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, is president of Known as The Inspiration Nurse, she is a keynote speaker, retreat and seminar leader, and author of "Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional" and "The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career." She brings more than 25 years of clinical, management and business experience to her role as career guru.


  1. Avatar
    dennis okindo September 25, 2016 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    very practical and experienced viewpoint, Donna.

  2. Avatar
    laila March 22, 2017 at 7:09 am - Reply

    Thank you for this helpful information

  3. Avatar
    Jessy Shau May 5, 2017 at 11:12 am - Reply

    very useful indeed. thank you.

  4. Avatar
    Betty June 13, 2017 at 10:51 pm - Reply

    Thank you very much..simple and clear information……

  5. Avatar
    Jo Hill July 29, 2017 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Thank you for helping me understand clearly, it was very knowledgeable and useful for my course I am doing.

  6. Avatar
    okello ceaser September 25, 2017 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    Helpful enough.

  7. Avatar
    Malika October 10, 2017 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Thanks for the information. In My opinion, talking face to face can resolve the overall the conflicts many times.

  8. Avatar
    Robin Holbrook November 29, 2017 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    I only count 6 strategies am I missing something??

  9. Avatar
    Sherry siler July 24, 2018 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    Sharonlyn Thank you as supervisor resolving conflict. Can be most challenging. Bedside manor. Is never clearly defined. Hands on approach is an individualized endeavor. Most will see his or her perspective as dominate.These 7 steps l have found helpful.

  10. Avatar
    Charity Marere July 18, 2019 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Very useful and am found my trainings ,thank you

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