Conflict Management

Thanks to the McKinley Health Center for providing permission to adapt and reprint this article from the McKinley Health Center website. View more helpful articles from McKinley.

Many people believe that conflict is unhealthy, undesirable and needs to be avoided at all costs. It is assumed that conflict is abnormal and a result of personality problems or differences. This is entirely untrue. Conflict can be healthy and can produce desirable outcomes. Conflict is also very normal and inevitable. It is also important to remember that conflict should not always be avoided, but managed. When we begin to understand conflict, we are able to preserve and strengthen our relationships, improve our own productivity by reducing the time and energy spent on handling conflict, reduce stress in our own lives, and get better results from the conflicts we do have.

Prevent Conflict

  • When angry, separate yourself from the situation and take a break.
  • Attack the problem, not the person.
  • Focus on the issue, not your position about the issue.
  • Work to develop common agreement with the individual.
  • Communicate your feelings assertively, not aggressively.
  • Focus on areas of common interest and agreement instead of areas of disagreement and opposition.
  • Accept and respect that individual opinions may differ, don't try to force compliance, work to develop common agreement.
  • Avoid jumping to conclusions or making assumptions about what another person is thinking or feeling.
  • Listen without interrupting and ask for feedback, if needed, to assure a clear understanding of the issue.

Manage Conflict

  • Be impartial—strive to be fair.
  • Ask each party to state what they think the problem is and not side-track to other issues.
  • Each party should restate what the other said, which helps people put themselves in the other's shoes.
  • Each party should confirm the accuracy of the re-statement, which gives the opportunity for corrections or clarifications to further the understanding of the other party.
  • Identify mutual needs or goals that each party previously identified.
  • Ask each party for a sincere, practical solution now that they understand the other's side better.
  • See if the parties can agree to one of the offered solutions. If not, try an alternative solution to see what works better.
  • Set a review date to make sure the accepted solution is working and to see if each party is living up to its agreement.

Campus Resources

Faculty/Staff Assistance Services
1011 W. University Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801
(217) 244-5312.

If you are concerned about any difference in your treatment plan and the information in this handout, you are advised to contact your health care provider.


"10 Strategies" developed by Jennie C. Trotter, Wholistic Stress Control Institute, Inc; 3480 Greenbrair Parkway, Suite 310-B; Atlanta, Georgia 30331

"Conflict Management Workshop" developed by W. Thomas Schenck

Source: McKinley Health Center website