Conflict is an unavoidable (and sometimes healthy) part of life. Reasonable amounts of conflict can help us learn and consider things from others’ points of view.
In the workplace, however, conflict can disrupt your routine, cause stress, and create an overall toxic work environment.
As such, conflict resolution skills are an invaluable asset no matter what your profession is.
After all, every employer wants someone who knows their way around conflict and can facilitate a friendly and collaborative work environment.
This begs the question - what kind of conflict resolution skills do recruiters want to see and how can you make them stand out on your resume?
This is exactly what this article is here for! We’ve put together everything you need to know about conflict resolution, including:
- Why Do Conflict Resolution Skills Matter?
- 10 Conflict Resolution Skills and Examples
- 8 Steps For Resolving Conflict Successfully
- How to Add Your Conflict Resolution Skills to Your Resume
Let’s dive in!
What Is Conflict Resolution?
Conflict resolution is the process, methods, and set of skills necessary to effectively resolve conflicts between two or more individuals.
The ability to resolve conflict is beneficial in all areas of life, but especially so at work. That's because, whether you work in an office, remotely, or on the field, you’re bound to face work-related conflict to some extent.
About 85% of employees experience some kind of conflict in the workplace. And, according to a CIPD report, conflict typically happens for one of the following reasons:
- Differences in personality or working styles
- Individual competence or performance
- Level of support or resources
Knowing how to overcome any such conflicts can be a huge asset both during your job hunt and in your career. Just to give you an idea, conflict management was the most in-demand soft skill among businesses hiring in 2019.
But what is it exactly that makes conflict resolution skills so sought after?
Why Do Conflict Resolution Skills Matter?
No matter the scale of the conflict or your level of involvement, possessing the skills to resolve it can come with a heap of benefits.
Here are some of the most noteworthy ones:
- Improved productivity. A well-functioning, friendly work environment allows employees to cooperate with each other and work more productively. Conflict in the workplace, on the other hand, leads to stress, anxiety, and a drop in motivation and productivity, according to the CIPD.
- Better work environment. Conflict resolution skills can significantly reduce miscommunications and disagreements among coworkers, and thus make the workplace a much nicer and more pleasant environment to work in.
- Professional growth. Conflict resolution skills are among the most popular transferable skills out there, which means they come in handy for many jobs across several industries. As such, having strong conflict resolution skills can help give your career a significant boost.
- Good customer relationships. In customer-facing roles, conflict can often occur between employees and customers. In such cases, conflict resolution skills can really save the day.
- Saved company time and money. US employees spend around 2.8 hours each week involved in a conflict. This amounts to around $359 billion in hours paid, according to CPP, Inc. In a workplace with minimal conflict, though, employees can use that time to work, in turn saving the company time and money.
10 Conflict Resolution Skills and Examples
Now that we covered the basics, let us break down the most impactful conflict resolution skills that could give your resume and career a serious boost, starting with:
Communication is among the most important conflict resolution skills out there.
It involves being able to listen attentively to what other people have to say, as well as expressing your own thoughts and opinions clearly. Many times, a good communicator is also someone who will catch on to non-verbal cues or who is able to persuade people to try and resolve a conflict.
In a nutshell, communication skills can make or break the conflict resolution process.
For example, think about how important communication skills are to an HR manager trying to resolve a conflict between two coworkers. They need to be able to persuade both sides to sit down and talk, listen attentively to understand the conflict, express their thoughts in an open and non-judgemental manner, and facilitate a discussion between the two parties.
Communication is a multi-faceted skill that consists of the following:
- Oral and written communication
- Non-verbal communication
- Active Listening
- Public speaking
#2. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is being aware of, controlling, and expressing one’s emotions, as well as handling interpersonal relations justly and empathetically.
When it comes to resolving conflict, emotional intelligence goes a long way in putting yourself in the other person’s shoes or understanding each side’s perspective.
Let’s say, for example, that you got into a conflict with a coworker because they didn’t manage to meet a deadline, thus bottlenecking the entire team’s workflow.
If you’re a highly emotionally intelligent person, you will be able to put yourself in your coworker’s shoes—maybe they had a very good reason for not meeting the deadline. The task could’ve been harder than initially estimated, there might have been some unexpected issues, or maybe the coworker had some personal problems that got in the way.
Viewing the problem from the other person’s shoes will allow you to focus on finding a solution to the problem at hand instead of just blaming them. By adopting such a neutral approach, you’re a lot more likely to avoid conflict at work, establish good relations with your coworkers, and get things done better and faster.
Some skills associated with emotional intelligence include:
- Interpersonal skills
People in leadership positions are often required to resolve conflict. After all, leadership involves being able to manage and inspire others, which in itself means ensuring that your team members are getting along and collaborating effectively.
That said, leadership skills are not only for dedicated leadership roles.
For example, you may be working in a team and still be able to manage and inspire your teammates in such a way they see you as a “team leader.” In such cases, you will also be able to resolve conflict more effectively than others, as leaders are typically emotionally intelligent, great communicators, and natural-born influencers.
Here are some other soft skills related to leadership:
- Strategic thinking
Teamwork involves working well with other individuals, addressing problems collectively, and putting the group’s needs ahead of personal goals.
As such, you can probably imagine why teamwork skills are important when it comes to conflict resolution. If you don’t think as a team member, you won’t be able to collaborate with others and put your differences aside to reach a common goal.
Similarly, if you’re personally involved in the conflict, having teamwork skills is what can differentiate whether you’ll be able to sit down and resolve the conflict or act selfishly and escalate it.
Teamwork comes in especially handy in arbitrary conflicts, where it doesn’t matter who “wins” but how fast and effectively the issue can be resolved.
Some teamwork-related soft skills are:
Patience is the ability to tolerate waiting, delay, frustration, or any other negative emotion or circumstance, without getting agitated or upset. It goes without saying that if you want to resolve a conflict successfully, you’ve got to be patient.
This applies both to whether you’re a third party trying to resolve a conflict or if you’re part of the conflict itself.
In the first case, you’ve got to have patience during the entire mediation process, considering that things may get heated or that the parties in conflict may need to take some time to reach an understanding and overcome the conflict.
In the second case, you’ve got to be patient enough to hear the other party, sit through the conflict resolution process, accept opinions and advice you may not necessarily agree with, and even go through a reconciliation process, depending on the severity of the conflict.
A compromise is an agreement or a settlement of a dispute in a way that both sides make concessions. It's almost impossible to settle a conflict without making at least some sort of concession, which makes the ability to compromise vital if you want to find a solution.
Compromise involves both coming up with such settlements and being able to accept them if you’ve been involved in the conflict yourself.
Take, for example, two classmates who need to work together on a project but can’t agree on the topic, because each of them wants something different. The teacher may decide to assign the topic themself so they won’t have to disagree over it - in this case, each student will compromise their own choice to avoid conflict.
Alternatively, the teacher may suggest they simply team up with other people and keep the topics they liked in the first place. This is also a compromise that can de-escalate the conflict between the two students.
Assertiveness is the middle ground between aggressiveness and apathy. Meaning, someone who is assertive is someone who stands up for what’s right in a positive way, instead of getting angry or being passive in the face of injustice.
In a conflict, assertiveness means that you can communicate with others without upsetting them or yourself. This is exactly what makes it one of the most important conflict resolution skills.
To give you an example of assertiveness as a conflict resolution skill, think of a supervisor who decides to facilitate a meeting between two employees who have argued and are not on speaking terms.
Some other examples of assertive behavior include:
- Being able to admit mistakes and apologize
- Not feeling entitled or superior to others
- Expressing appreciation toward others
Problem-solving is the ability to identify problems, find what’s causing them, and come up with a good solution.
Problem-solving and conflict resolution go hand in hand. A problem solver is someone who, instead of wasting time being angry or irritated when faced with conflict, will focus on understanding the problem and solving it in a way that benefits everyone involved.
For example, if you’re a team leader whose team is facing a productivity issue, you may need to redefine the roles of two team members who don’t like each other to avoid conflict between the two.
Some skills associated with problem-solving skills include:
- Analytical skills
- Research skills
- Critical thinking
Oftentimes, you have to think outside the box to resolve a conflict.
This is exactly where creativity comes in. In a nutshell, creativity is the ability to view situations and approach tasks and challenges inventively.
Creative skills may be what makes the difference between an OK and a great solution to a conflict.
A restaurant server who’s facing a conflict with a customer, for example, may find more creative ways to solve the disagreement than simply calling the manager, such as offering them a complimentary drink or getting the entire table dessert at the end of their meal.
As with most soft skills, creativity is made up of different skills, such as:
Management is being able to manage people (including yourself), situations, resources, and even processes. And, of course, to be able to master conflict resolution, you need to be able to do all of these things.
Although management skills are typically associated with management positions, that’s not actually the case. Any professional can benefit from strong management skills, especially when it comes to successfully resolving workplace conflict.
For example, if the HR manager at your company is mediating a conflict between you and a coworker, the stronger your management skills, the better you’ll be able to handle yourself and the process. Similarly, if you’re the one mediating a conflict, you’ll need strong management skills to manage those involved, their reactions, and the resources at your disposal to solve it.
Some management skills include:
- People management
- Project management
- Time management
- Risk management
5 Healthy and Unhealthy Ways of Responding to Conflict
Several things can factor into the way we respond to conflict, including our upbringing, our core values, and our previous experiences.
Take, for example, two adults. The first grew up in an inclusive, open environment, while the second grew up in an eruptive and violent environment. As you can imagine, the person in the first example is much more likely to respond to conflict in a healthy way than the person in the second.
The same applies to people with, say, different values; a person who believes in cooperation and understanding will most probably seek to resolve conflict, whereas someone who’s more on the selfish side might cling to it longer.
But what exactly consists of healthy and unhealthy ways of responding to conflict? Let us give you some examples:
- Lack of empathy or inability to recognize the other person’s feelings and respond to the thighs that matter to them.
- Anger, resentment, or explosive reactions.
- Apathy or withdrawing love, which leads to rejection, isolation, and shaming.
- Inability to compromise and see the other person’s perspective.
- Fear or avoidance due to associating conflict with a bad experience or expecting a bad outcome.
- Empathy and understanding of the other person’s viewpoint.
- Calm, inclusive, and non-defensive reactions and words.
- A “forgive-and-forget” attitude and the readiness to move past a conflict without holding any grudges.
- Seeking compromise and not acting out of spite or with intent to punish.
- Desire to face conflict as soon as possible so that both sides can move on.
8 Steps For Resolving Conflict Successfully
The more you practice conflict resolution, the better you can get at it. That said, there are some do’s and don’ts you can learn about conflict resolution that’ll help you get better at this skill.
Below, we’ll cover the 8 steps you can take in order to resolve any conflict:
#1. Keep your calm
Before you engage in a conflict resolution process, you’ve got to make sure you’re calm and clear-headed.
After all, the people involved in the conflict likely already feel angry, impatient, or judgemental toward each other, while your job as a mediator is to eliminate negativity as much as possible.
This, however, may be hard to do if you yourself are not calm. The conflict resolution process may be even harder if you’ve been involved in the conflict yourself and want to solve it, but you’re not able to keep your calm.
As such, you can try taking several deep breaths before beginning the conflict resolution process, relaxing your body and dropping your shoulders, or doing whatever works best for calming you down.
#2. Set a time and place for discussion
Conflict resolution can be a strenuous and time-consuming process for those involved, and can also get very distracting for those who aren’t involved but may happen to witness it.
So, it’s important to find an appropriate time and place for the conflict resolution process to take place. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Conflict resolution takes time. For this reason, you should make sure that everyone involved has enough time and won’t have to leave for another appointment halfway through the process.
- The environment matters. For starters, the place should be private from the eyes of outsiders. Additionally, you should make sure that all participants feel comfortable in the agreed-upon location by choosing a neutral place. That way, you don’t run the risk of one side feeling superior or vulnerable.
- Conflict resolution can get tiring. Consider having water or snacks available to ease up the process.
#3. Define the conflict or issue
The first step to finding a solution to a problem is accepting there is a problem in the first place.
Only once all the parties have accepted this, can the conflict resolution process begin.
The first step here is to clearly define the issue at hand and not let it escalate into unrelated conflicts. After all, it’s not uncommon for conflict to escalate to a point where no one knows what they’re even fighting about anymore.
Some things you can do to define the conflict successfully are:
- Begin the process by sharing your own take on what’s causing the conflict
- Ask all the people involved to share their own experience
- Try to keep the discussion to one main point at a time
- Take every perspective into consideration
- Consider how each person is contributing to the problem
- List any past, unsuccessful attempts to resolve the issue (if it’s a persisting issue)
If you’re personally involved in the conflict, try to use “I” statements as much as possible (e.g. “I feel like my efforts always go unnoticed” versus “you always ignore my hard work.” That way, you’re more likely to create a space where everyone can voice their opinions.
#4. Note down possible conflict triggers
Sometimes, it’s external factors that trigger people into conflict.
Such factors typically include:
- Personal issues
Openly discussing what may have triggered other parties into conflict can increase the empathy of all those involved, as well as make it easier to anticipate and avoid similar conflicts in the future.
#5. Brainstorm and list possible solutions
Pick everyone’s brain on how you can go about solving the conflict.
One of the most common issues of conflict resolution is pushing one solution and not keeping an open mind to alternative options. Brainstorming different ideas and possibilities, on the other hand, can help all parties reach a compromise or an agreement that’s beneficial to everyone involved.
Once you’ve brainstormed and discussed different solutions to the conflict, note down the best ones or the most achievable ones.
#6. Agree on a single plan
In many cases, the “solution” to a conflict may be to simply acknowledge both sides were wrong, agree to disagree, apologize, or move on.
In other cases, though, you may actually need to come up with and agree on an action plan to make sure the conflict never repeats again. For example, if two team members feel like the project leader doesn’t take their ideas into consideration, the plan may be to have weekly meetings where every member is given five minutes to express their insights and thoughts.
In such cases, before ending the conflict resolution process, make sure to clearly define the necessary actions and steps for every person involved.
#7. Check-in to discuss progress
Following through is an essential part of conflict resolution.
After all, even if the conflict resolution meeting goes well, there is still a chance that people won't follow through with the plan or repeat the same patterns after a while.
As such, make sure to agree on a time in the future (not too soon after the initial meeting) to check in with everyone, see how they’re feeling, and ensure there is actual progress.
#8. Involve a third party
Now, despite all the best intentions, there is still a chance that the conflict resolution process won’t work (or that it may require many more meetings and mediation, depending on the scale and severity of the issue).
If that happens, the best course of action is to involve a third party to help out. In most cases, the team lead or HR manager is the right person for this.
How to Add Your Conflict Resolution Skills to Your Resume
Anyone can claim they have conflict resolution skills. It’s being able to prove them in your resume that will help you stand out from the competition.
Below, we’ll cover the entire process of adding your conflict resolution skills to your resume effectively, step-by-step.
Before you read further, though, pick one of our resume templates and fill it in as you go!
#1. List Them Under Your Skills Section
The most obvious place to list your conflict resolution skills is under your skills section.
Although this part is fairly straightforward, there are some things you want to keep in mind.
For starters, you shouldn’t just mention every conflict resolution skill we covered in this article and call it a day. Instead, you want to make sure that you add conflict resolution skills that are relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Here is just how you can do that:
- Check the job description. In 99% of cases, the job description can show you exactly which skills are needed for the position. If you’re applying for a teaching position, for example, the job description may not directly mention “conflict resolution” as a skill, but a bunch of other skills related to it, such as excellent communication and interpersonal skills, creativity, and leadership.
- Identify the skills you possess. Now think about the skills that you can back up with your previous work experience. Only list conflict resolution skills that you possess and that you can prove you possess on your resume.
- Add them under your soft skills. Then, add those skills under your resume’s soft skills section.
Here’s an example of how conflict resolution skills look on a resume’s skills section:
#2. Mention Them In Your Resume Summary
Secondly, you should mention your conflict resolution skills in your resume summary.
In a nutshell, the resume summary is a short paragraph that usually mentions:
- Your professional title and years of experience
- Your top skills (up to three)
- Your most noteworthy achievements
Done right, your resume summary should convey you’re a great candidate from the get-go and get the hiring manager to go through the rest of your resume in more detail.
Here’s an example of a resume summary that highlights the applicant’s conflict resolution skills:
A dedicated customer support representative with over five years of experience helping customers and solving their problems. Excellent communication and conflict resolution skills, with over 95% customer approval rating to prove it. Looking to leverage my skills to help Company X provide quality customer service.
#3. Back Them Up With Your Work Experience
Last but not least, you should use your work experience section to back up all the conflict resolution skills you’ve mentioned with facts.
This is exactly what makes this section the most important part of your resume.
Done right, it will prove to the hiring manager that you’re exactly who they’re looking for.
Here’s just how you can do that:
- Focus on your achievements instead of your responsibilities. Instead of mentioning things the hiring manager already knows (i.e. your responsibilities), aim to show how you made an impact with your achievements instead. So, when you’ve pinned down the conflict resolution skills to include in your resume, write down some achievements from your previous roles to prove them.
- Make your achievements quantifiable. To really impress recruiters, you want to make your achievements as quantifiable as possible. After all, nothing says “real” more than a data-backed claim. For example, “hit and exceeded department’s KPIs by 20% for four months in a row” sounds better than “increased sales.”
- Take advantage of action verbs and power words. This article lists the best action verbs and power words you can use to give your resume some color and make your achievements sound even more impressive.
And here are some great examples of how you can describe your conflict resolution skills in your resume’s work experience section:
- Won an American Business Award for Achievement in Diversity and Inclusion for creating a checks and balances system that decreased employee complaints and conflicts by 15% in only three months.
- Managed cross-department teams of 20 people without any hiccups, never missing a deadline, and in the end, exceeding the company’s KPIs by 14%.
Interview Questions on Conflict Resolution Skills - Sample Answers
Once you’ve worked on your resume, the next step in your job search process is to ace the job interview.
If the job you’re applying for involves customer support or management, there’s a very good chance that the interviewer will ask you detailed questions about your conflict resolution skills.
In this section, we’ll teach you just how you can answer them!
The first thing you need to know is that the interviewer will most probably inquire about your conflict resolution skills through a behavioral interview question.
Behavioral interview questions are types of questions where the interviewer asks you about how you acted in a specific situation.
So instead of a question like:
“What’s your greatest strength?”
They’re going to ask:
“What’s your greatest strength, and give us an example of a time you applied it in the workplace.”
Some other examples of common behavioral questions are:
- Tell us about a time when you solved a problem at your job that wasn’t part of your job description.
- Have you ever had to work under someone who wasn’t very good at communicating? What happened?
Now, behavioral interview questions can seem trickier to answer than conventional interview questions.
After all, anyone can answer a question like “what’s your greatest accomplishment?”
Coming up with a concrete example that demonstrates how you went above and beyond to complete a work task on the spot, though, can be considerably more challenging.
Well, it doesn’t have to be!
Lucky for you, there’s an easy way to answer behavioral interview questions called the STAR method. Here’s what STAR stands for:
S - Situation. Describe in what situation the event took place.
T - Task. Talk about the task at hand or your responsibilities.
A - Action. Describe the steps you took to address the issue/complete the task.
R - Results. Mention the results of your actions.
Master the STAR method, and you’ll be able to answer any conflict resolution-related job interview question that the HR manager throws at you!
Let’s say, for example, that the interviewer asks the following question:
“Have you ever faced conflict or disagreement with a coworker? What happened and how did you resolve it?”
Here’s how you’d answer it using the STAR method:
Situation. “During my internship at Company X, my team and I were supposed to work together and brainstorm new talent-sourcing ideas for a client. The client was a large supermarket chain located in a very rural area, so they were struggling to source new talent.”
Task. “Basically, our task was to meet on a daily basis, brainstorm, and finally settle on three ideas. After a couple of meetings, we did have a few ideas, but none of them were really satisfactory. Meanwhile, the management wanted something they could confidently present to the client.
At this point, some of my teammates basically said “well, here are our ideas, we don’t have anything else!”. Another teammate and I, however, wanted to work on it a bit more and come up with something that WOULD work.
There was a lot of back and forth from there, the tensions were high, and the team kept shutting down all the ideas we were proposing. The deadline was super close and we had to figure out a way to move forward.”
Action. “So, I gave it some thought and realized that we’d be in a deadlock forever if we continued like this. They wouldn’t agree with our approach and we wouldn’t agree with theirs. So, we decided to bring in an unbiased third party who didn't have any emotional investment here.
We then conducted a longer meeting without any time restraints and went through each idea one by one, while the third party acted as a sort of mediator. When someone pitched something, they also had to back it up with as many facts as possible, otherwise, it wouldn’t count.”
Results. “This really helped bring something new to the table. The “mediator” helped sort through all the bad ideas, as well as infused the team with new energy, and kept tensions on the low.
We eventually came up with completely original ideas that we all agreed upon. We finished the meeting in approximately two hours and the management had three awesome ideas they could pitch to the client. The client did implement one of the ideas, which eventually resulted in three new hires.”
And just to make sure you’ve really got how the STAR method works, let’s cover another example.
Let’s say that the interviewer asks something like this:
“How do you handle angry or irritated customers? Give me an example.”
Here’s how you’d answer with the STAR method:
Situation. “Working in customer support, you really get to talk with many different kinds of people. I remember I had one angry customer that called the helpdesk once to complain. He kept repeating that the product he bought was faulty and demanded I resolve the situation then and there.”
Task. “Customers calling for refunds happen all the time, but this one was different as he just kept shouting over the phone the whole time. I had to get him to calm down if I wanted the call to go anywhere.”
Action. “Fortunately, I had experience dealing with loud customers and knew the first thing I had to do was listen to his story. Halfway through telling his story, he calmed down once he realized I was trying to help. He explained that the product was supposed to be a gift, and that’s why he was so frustrated. Then, I offered 2 solutions: a refund or a replacement for his product with express delivery.”
Results. “The customer opted for the replacement option. I called him back once they received the order just to check in if he was happy with the product. He turned out to be happy both with the product and our service, and thanked me for the help.”
And that’s a wrap on conflict resolution skills!
Before you go and put everything we just told you to practice, let’s go over the main points covered in this article:
- Conflict resolution is the process, methods, and set of skills necessary to effectively resolve conflicts between two or more individuals.
- At work, conflict resolution skills are essential because they improve employees’ productivity, ensure the work environment is enjoyable for everyone, and save the company money and time.
- Some important conflict-resolution skills include communication, creativity, assertiveness, compromise, and leadership.
- Some healthy ways to respond to a conflict are showing empathy, keeping your calm, wanting to resolve the conflict, and following a “forgive and forget” attitude.
- To successfully resolve conflict, make sure to properly define the issue at hand, outline possible conflict triggers, brainstorm possible solutions, agree on a single plan, and follow up to see if everyone involved is following through.
- To make conflict resolution skills pop, add them in the skills section, sprinkle them in your resume summary, and back them up with your work experience section.