Conflict resolution is intellectually simple. The most logical solution would be selected and implemented. However, the human factor of emotion can make solutions extraordinarily difficult. Outside the mythical planet of Vulcan where pure logic reigns supreme, conflict resolution requires openness, humility, and allegiance to team relationships. Here are six steps to enable your team to successfully tackle the task of confrontation.

1. Confront a teammate only if you care about them. "If I, taking care of everyone's interests, also take care of my own, you can't talk about a conflict of interest" - Silvio Berlusconi. In nearly all team conflict, it is most productive to go into a confrontation keeping the other person's interests in mind. When you attempt to resolve conflict with a teammate, what has been your goal? Victory? Personal considerations? Relief? Next time try the goal of finding a win for both parties. If you attempt to ensure that the other person wins first, then you know you have the most beneficial perspective. A scorched earth approach to team conflict leaves the team damaged. It is imperative your ultimate goal works for all members.

2. Meet together as soon as possible. "Those who know when to fight and when not to fight are victorious" - Sun Tzu. Many of us, when given the choice, would prefer to avoid a fight or conflict. So procrastination or recruiting others who are not a part of the conflict are common tactics. However, anytime you let conflict go unresolved it will almost always get worse. When people are left to speculate about another person's motives or to attempt to determine the details of a conflict, they often arrive at erroneous conclusions. Putting off confrontation is rarely the appropriate choice.

Team members should be encouraged to confront conflict in the group as quickly as possible. It is never a good idea to save up a collection of past problems then give your teammate a history lesson during a confrontation. Instead meet together right away, face-to-face. If that's absolutely impossible, then consider a conversation by phone. But under no circumstances should you confront someone via email or texting.

3. First seek understanding, not necessarily agreement. "If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool" - Carl Jung. A major hindrance to resolving a conflict is having preconceived notions. You cannot reach understanding if your focus is on yourself. President Abraham Lincoln was well known for his tremendous people skills. He maintained that to be successful in reasoning you should spend one-third of your time thinking about yourself and two-thirds thinking about the other person. To find understanding you must listen. The key to the success in this step is to focus entirely on your teammate's position without any attempt to reach agreement. By doing this you may avoid the trap Dr. Jung was outlining. By not listening and understanding, you may view your teammate as not thinking clearly.

4. Outline the issue. "I don't understand you. You don't understand me. What else do we have in common?" - Ashleigh Brilliant. When you have listened to your teammate and it's your turn to speak, it is important for you to take a positive approach. First describe your observations and stay away from conclusions. State what you think you see and avoid attributing motives to your teammate. Next tell how the situation makes you feel. If the situation makes you angry or frustrated or sad, express it clearly and without accusation. Finally explain why this is important to you. At times, once your teammate finds out your priorities, that will be enough to make him/her want to change. Engaging in these three steps without bitterness or emotional heat is essential. Don't ignore your feelings, but make sure you aren't verbally assaulting your teammate.

5. Encourage a response. "One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears - by listening to them" - Dean Rusk. Now you have listened to your teammate and outlined the matter, as you see it. Once again it is time to listen. Allow a reaction. Encouraging a response helps you better understand the problem. This step also gives your teammate a chance to emotionally process the issue. Virtually all confrontations have an emotional component. Your teammate may be shocked, angry or feel guilty. He/she may want to share those feelings with you. It is very important that you seek a genuine response. Once people feel they are understood, then they are more likely to be ready to move toward a resolution to the problem.

6. Agree to an action plan. "I try to take every conflict, every experience, and learn from it. Life is never dull" - Oprah Winfrey. Most people hate confrontation and love resolution. The path to resolution is positive action. By developing and agreeing to an action plan, you place the focus on the future, not on the problems of the past. If the teammate you are confronting wants to change, he/she will gravitate toward the possibility of making things better.

A good action plan should include these points:

Clear identification of the issue.
Concrete identifiable steps that lead to resolution of the issue.
Unambiguous accountability, such as a time line or a third party judge.
Deadline for completion. Timelines help move the process forward.
A commitment by both parties to put the issue in the past once resolved.

In the workplace the action plan should be put in writing. The document serves as a diagram if questions arise about the resolution. Successful confrontation usually changes both people. Positive change is the first measure of success when resolving conflict through confrontation. The second is the ongoing growth of the team. If you follow these steps, conflict won't hurt the team; it will strengthen the bonds between teammates. And advance your team toward success.

Author's Bio: 

Richard Highsmith,, is President of Quality Team Building. He has twenty-five years experience training and coaching. He has built and sold two successful businesses. To learn more about becoming a team leader visit our website at or call Rick toll-free at 1-888-484-8326 X101.