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Conflict Resolution Strategies Rescue Endangered Conversations

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Anytime you engage in a collaborative conversation, there is the potential for conflict. Human nature says if you ask 3 people the same question, you will get 5 answers, none of which are right. The person espousing each answer, however, is willing to defend their position against all comers. Left unmanaged, this behavior can turn destructive.

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Dealing with Conflict Is a 4-step Process:

  • Identification acknowledges that the conflict exists.
  • Analysis determines whether the conflict is one of data (alternate reality), interest (competing perspectives), values (competing beliefs), relationships (personal issues), or structure (levels of authority).
  • Resolution adopts a strategy best suited to the situation.
  • Documentation captures the situation and the resolution for proof and to offer opportunities for growth

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) Defines 5 Conflict Resolution Strategies

The tool is based on the assumption that people choose how cooperative versus assertive to be in a conflict. The 5 strategies are Avoiding, Competing, Accommodating, Collaborating, and Compromising.

Managing Conflict: Avoid Compete, Accommodate, Collaborate, and Compromise

As a general rule, avoiding the conflict resolves nothing and possibly leads to further problems in the future. Allowing competition works great in sports and war, but seldom contributes to a solution all members accept in a collaborative conversation. Accommodating is when one sides gives in which can result in unresolved issues that surface later.

Given the nature of the get-togethers we facilitate, collaborating is obviously our first choice for defusing conflicts. Compromising is not excluded, but we will always try collaborative interventions first. Compromise means both parties get something, and neither is totally satisfied. Collaboration seeks to define solutions that everyone can support. Compromise may be the only option when a group is polarized and is unable or unwilling to take the time to collaborate. This can result in the “kicking the can down the road” syndrome, so take that into consideration.

Whether the parties collaborate or compromise, conflict often leaves some aspects of the issue on the Open Issues List for later resolution.

Here are a few facilitation tips that will help you deal with conflict:

  • Invite debate around ideas while managing the discussion to avoid personal confrontations
  • Point to the meeting ground rules that should encourage discussions and forgo personal attacks
  • Make sure each attendee has an opportunity to express a thought or opinion
  • Use subtle body language and transition statements to diffuse outbursts (“Thanks, Fred. John, we haven’t heard from you. How does this affect your group?”)
  • Get a sense of where attendees are without unnecessarily pressuring them to reach a premature conclusion
  • Intervene assertively and provide direction, especially if participants are talking over each other or the discussion threatens to get heated
  • Be an honest broker of the conversation and stay impartial at all times.

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Written for the aspiring Business Analyst and anyone tasked with defining the business needs, requirements, or user stories for a future IT solution.

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