9 Skills that Will Help You Resolve Conflict at Work

As much as we want to avoid it, conflict is a large part of the experiences we have in life. Whether at work, at home, or anywhere else, conflict can happen at any time, and we might not always be prepared to deal with it when it comes. 

However, while a lot of us might fear it or try to avoid it, conflict can also be an important part of working with others (if handled correctly). It is important that people are willing to stand up for what they believe in and agree on certain things. Either way, being able to resolve conflicts is a vital skill to have both in your career and your life. 

With that said, if you have trouble approaching conflict, especially at a job or if you work in a team, try using these methods the next time you get into a debate or argument.

1. Don’t Get Defensive

It’s very easy to get defensive when someone else disagrees with you or says you are wrong about something. However, this can be a problematic mindset that will worsen the situation. 

Instead of jumping to say “no”, try to listen to the other person(s) and see things from their perspective. You don’t necessarily have to agree with what they’re saying, but it’s important to understand them and see why they think the way they do. Otherwise, you’ll be going back and forth disagreeing with each other and not letting the other person speak – I don’t think anyone wants to deal with that.

2. Don’t Blame Others

Just as important as it is to not get defensive, it is very rude to point the finger at someone else whenever conflict arises. Not only that, but it becomes so much harder to fix the problem you are trying to solve in the first place. 

No one should ever feel unsafe expressing their perspective, and blaming only makes things worse. However, if you let everyone say their part of the argument without blaming them or trying to shut them down, you’ll be much more successful in diffusing the situation. 

Think about it – how would you feel if you were silenced or blamed whenever you wanted to explain your side?

3. Listen (actively) to the Other Side of the Argument

When people argue, they often just want to talk as much as they can without stopping so they can make the other person(s) see their side. This can become a mess of a conversation where neither party lets up, making it almost impossible for them to understand each other.

Instead of trying to make your voice the loudest in the room, stop and listen fully to what the other person(s) has to say. Don’t interrupt them – pay attention and try to understand their argument.

This is an incredibly important skill, as many times conflicts can erupt due to a lack of understanding. By actively listening, you might realize there was something you got wrong, so you can rethink your argument and plan out your response. This will prevent your situation from getting worse, and you’ll have much more success in resolving your conflict.

4. Keep a cool head.

Conflict resolution can only truly be effective if you stay calm while you’re working towards a solution. At times this might be difficult with the person you are dealing with, but getting angry yourself will not help anybody. If anything, you’ll only make it harder to reach a solution that satisfies all parties involved.

Before you plan on addressing the conflict, be sure that you’ve let out all of your anger or frustration. Regardless of what you need to do, make sure you do it alone and not in front of the people you end up talking to. Once you’re calm, you’ll be in a much better position to think through their viewpoints.

5. Be willing to compromise.

There are many methods for managing and resolving conflict, which vary in effectiveness depending on the situation you find yourself in. Though, there will be times where both parties involved will have to put aside their arguments and work together to reach a common ground.

If you find yourself in a position where you do not want to give up your side, you need to recognize that coming to an agreement is more important than winning the argument. This is something you need to make clear to the opposing party. From there, you need to work with them and hear them out so you can both come up with a solution that works for everyone.

Keep in mind that the end solution might not be something you fully agree with, and maybe the other person feels the same – sacrifices sometimes have to be made in order to resolve the situation.

6. Don’t take anything personally.

Distancing yourself from your opinions or arguments is important when dealing with conflict. Some people are too caught up in their arguments that are unwilling to compromise or even listen to you – they treat any criticism or disagreement as a personal attack.

You cannot become too attached to your viewpoint, as it is not the only thing that defines who you are. At the same time, the conflicts you face at work having nothing to do with the person, but rather your position or something you were involved in. As such, there is no reason to take those conflicts personally. Instead, focus on thinking through the situation logically and working to resolve whatever problems there are.

7. Keep an eye on body language.

People will not always say exactly what they feel or need, even if the situation is something that directly impacts them. They might not want to engage in conflict, so they either avoid it or say things that disagree with how they actually feel. At times like this, it’s important to keep an eye on their body language, as it can actually reveal a lot about what’s really on their mind.

Changes in body language can be anything from facial expressions, posture, or gestures that convey a different feeling than what is said. If you notice this behavior, you can act accordingly so as to ensure the situation can be effectively resolved. This may require dropping the conflict entirely and bringing the person somewhere where they are more comfortable with being open to you. Be ready to adapt to different situations, as no two people react to conflict the same way.

8. Be ready to apologize and/or forgive. 

Being right in an argument is something people (myself included) can never get enough of. We always want to be right, regardless of what the situation is, which makes it hurt all the more when we realize we were actually wrong. Though, recognizing the mistakes you’ve made and willingly apologizing for them is incredibly important in conflict management. Being able to accept your mistakes in a working environment shows your level of professionalism, in regular life it conveys a sense of maturity.

At the same time, you maintain the professionalism and good standing of the relationships you have with these people by owning up to your mistakes. Not only can this simmer down the conflict completely, but they’ll definitely appreciate you for doing that. Besides, letting go of your pride is much better than potentially damaging the connections you have with people, especially if it’s over a minor conflict.

9. Stay in the present.

When you start getting upset at someone in the middle of an argument or conflict, you’ll likely start to think of other times where they caused you to feel the exact same way. At that point, even though it might not have nothing to do with the current situation, you might feel ready to bring up all of those past interactions because of how angry they’re making you. Not only is this an ineffective way of dealing with conflict, it makes it much harder to resolve the situation because you’re now dealing with things you’ve already dealt with before.

When it comes to conflict resolution in work and life, try following this personal rule: if a problem or conflict comes up, talk about them or address them within two days after they’ve happened. After that, you need to let it go.

The inconveniences we deal with only become unnecessary emotional baggage when we still hold onto them long after they’ve happened. In the end, you’re only making yourself feel worse about something you can’t do anything about anymore. Instead of getting stuck in the past, live in the present.


Conflict is always going to be a part of our lives, no matter how much we don’t want that to be true. However, rather than going out of your way to avoid it, practicing these methods of conflict resolution (and all others out there) will leave you much better off in your relationships and your career. In the end, most of the conflicts you face only end up amounting to minor inconveniences, and they should never be something that ruins a relationship unless it’s something truly serious.

Published by Gerardo Lucena

Gerardo Lucena is a Junior at the University of Michigan pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Engineering (BSE) degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Computer Science. He has programming experience in C++, and he has worked with Michigan Hyperloop and MRover during his first two years at the University.

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