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Five Steps For Personal Conflict Resolution

Updated on September 19, 2008

Using Self Mediation to Resolve Conflict

When you find yourself involved in a mid-size conflict, what do you do? It's too big to ignore, and it's not really big enough to involve anyone else or to seek a formal solution.

The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to resolve the conflict. You can use a concept known as self mediation to apply mediation skills to conflicts that have started to grow beyond your normal day-to-day communication skills.

If that's your situation, this lens has insights to help you move forward.


While this process will work for most common interpersonal conflicts; it may not be fun, comfortable, or pleasant for either of you.

The 5 Ds to Mediate Your Own Conflicts

Conflict conversations often go wrong when the two parties disengage too soon. As Daniel Dana, author of Conflict Resolution, says; people often don't "argue" long enough because of a hard-wired behavioral approach commonly known as the "fight-or-flight" response. This natural response can serve us well as a protection from physical harm, but it seldom helps during the normal interpersonal conflicts we experience at home and at work. Our natural response tends to create two behaviors that short-circuit effective conflict conversations:

  1. The "fight" response often leads to the "power-play" approach - raised voice, aggressive body language, and emotional outbursts. Power-plays usually lead to hurt feelings and damaged relationships.
  2. The "flight" response often leads to the "walk-away" approach - withdrawal, leaving the room, and avoidance. Walk-aways leave conflict unresolved and issues unaddressed.

Following a simple process to control these inappropriate responses can help you to effectively self-mediate many interpersonal conflicts.

The process goes like this:


efine the problem in behaviorally specific terms.

Your anger (frustration, irritation, hurt feelings, etc.) is not the real problem. Frequent miscommunication, chronic misunderstandings, or your inability to work productively together may be how you define the problem. Carefully examine the situation and identify a non-accusatory, objective description of it.


eliver the invitation to meet.

Resist the urge to get drawn-in to a conversation on-the-spot. You want to schedule a time for a conversation. You probably do not want to have the conversation immediately. You definitely do not want to have it "on-the-fly."


ecide on a time and place for a discussion.

Set aside 2 hours for an uninterrupted conversation. It may not take the full 2 hours. You just want to allow plenty of time to reach resolution.


iscuss the problem and how you will resolve it.

During the discussion:

  • Resist the urge to leave too soon (walk-away) or to push too hard (power-play). Encourage the other party to do the same.
  • Notice and comment on anything positive the other person says. For example, make sure you verbally recognize when they: acknowledge your perspective, apologize for their actions, or take responsibility for their contribution.
  • Stick with it until you both agree on a course of action. You do not have to agree on every individual point, and you do not need to reach the point of liking each other. You just need an action plan for moving forward.


ocument your action plan.

In many cases, both of you may want to sign and keep a copy of your agreement. To many people, this step seems overly formal. I completely understand this feeling. However, writing the agreement down helps to clarify everyone's understanding, to cement it in everyone's memory, and to minimize misunderstandings later.

The material in this lens is provided for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as creating an attorney-client relationship. This lens should not be used as a substitute for competent advice from a licensed professional attorney our mediator in your state.

Images courtesy

When This Process Works Best

This process works well under the following conditions:

  • You are in a long-term, interdependent relationship with the other person.
  • Both of you have the authority to take the actions to resolve the conflict.
  • The conflict is big enough that you need to address it and small enough to not require formal resolution approaches - i.e. grievance procedures, litigation, etc.
  • The risk of retaliation is low - i.e. they do not have a history of abusing their authority.
  • You do not expect them to resort to physical violence.

Many of the conflict situations we face in life will meet these conditions. If the conflict you face meets these conditions, I encourage you to apply. . .

The 5 Ds to Mediate Your Own Conflicts.

Why This Process Works

  • Most people really do want peace.
  • Given the right amount of time and a safe place to talk, you can both get to the point where you feel that you were heard and understood.
  • When both of you feel heard and understood, you can reach a breakthrough in the communication.
  • When you reach a breakthrough, you can resolve the conflict.

Trust the Process

If your situation fits the conditions when this approach works best, trust the process and not your feelings. It will work if you stick with it and commit yourself to resolving the conflict.

Let me know what you think. What would you like to know more about?

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    • recoveringengin profile image

      recoveringengin 6 years ago

      @ih8mycow: I hope the thoughts on my lenses have offered some additional ideas you can use if you find yourself in this situation again. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    • profile image

      ih8mycow 6 years ago

      Thanks for this! I have a hard time dealing with conflicts and I don't exactly have the best decisions in life. The best thing I could ever think of in the past is send out an anonymous email via ihatemycoworker

      ihatemycoworker. Not exactly the best idea but it did relieve me from stress.