MENTAL HEALTH NEWS: Steps To Conflict Resolution in Relationships

The College of Mental Health Counseling gives this practical approach supporting mature peacemaking and problem-solving for individuals, couples, groups, organizations, and nations.
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Also found at the following principles must be accepted by everyone participating in the solution development process. The process* can involve a single individual, a couple, two or more parties having issues, or a large group, and moves beyond control to mutual agreement or majority decision.

1. Do not judge, criticize, or evaluate any ideas as you engage in the solution development process.

2. Do not use attempts to exercise power or control of any kind: such as anger, yelling, name-calling, put-downs, threats or intimidation or manipulation.

Step One: Identifying Issues

1. The facilitator invites participants to say “what issues and challenges need to be addressed.”

2. The facilitator writes these issues in a numbered list on a chalk board or flip chart.

(As the issues are being stated, the facilitator uses reflective listening as needed in order to clarify meaning. In the event a strong emotion is expressed or a participant becomes too verbal, the facilitator uses reflective statements, checks if the person feels understood, then directs the participants back to the issue.)

3. The  facilitator then asks members to say the number of one of the listed issues that he thinks needs to be addressed first.

4. The  facilitator makes a tick by the number of each listed issue selected by participants, then circles the one with the most ticks; this becomes the first issue for solution development.  

Step Two: Creating Solutions

1. Writing the issue on the chalkboard or flipchart, the facilitator makes a numbered list below it and says, “Now I would like us to brainstorm as many solutions for this issue as you can think of, and as you state them I will write them down on this list without judgment, criticism or discussion.”

2. To increase the number of ideas and with writing material, large groups can break into small groups or dyads and brainstorm using the following statements presented by the facilitator:

Let’s write down what’s happening now, because that is always a choice.
What’s the opposite of what’s happening now?
What is a fantasy of what you might like to see happen but you don’t think is possible?
Think of an approach that seems silly or ridiculous.
Imagine what someone you respect (a relative or other wise person) might say as a solution.
I can think of a possible solution that would work well and that no one has mentioned. Can anyone quess what it is? (the facilitator writes down ideas the participants guess)
My idea is ...... (facilitator adds his or her solution to the numbered list)

Step Three: Reaching A Creative Agreement

1. The facilitator says: “Now using your writing material, I would like each of you to take a separate sheet of paper and privately write down the number of up to three of the listed possible solutions or approaches that you think would be most practical or workable to address the challenge or issue.”

2. The facilitator says: “Now tell me the number of the listed solutions you have chosen, and I will make a tick by each of the solutions.”

3. The three solutions most selected by the participants become the creative agreement or solution strategy for the issue addressed.

4. Depending on the issue, volunteers can be invited and a time can be determined to implement the strategy or action plan.

5. Repeat Step Two and Step Three for the second, third, fourth, etc. issue selected most often by the participants.

*If the conflict is related to differences in philosophy or religion or personal taste, the following approaches may provide a solution: agree to disagree, flip a coin, or agree to separate action plans.

For professional support, the author Daniel Keeran, MSW, can be reached at Additional information is found in the easy-to-read book Effective Counseling Skills (
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Tags:Conflict Resolution, Marriage, Relationship, Business, War
Industry:Education, Society
Location:Victoria - British Columbia - Canada
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Page Updated Last on: Nov 27, 2012
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