Which Methods of Conflict Resolution Work Best?
No matter how much we try to avoid conflict, it seems to always pop up at the worst times. Conflicts can
start from a very simple spark of emotions or range all the way to supportive evidence that has been
complied for years. Either way as a leader you need to have sound methods of conflict resolution in order to
lead more effectively with any conflict. If a leader has no methods of conflict resolution and blows up
emotionally with each and every conflict, they will be painted into corner as a irrational highly explosive
leader who cannot handle stressful situations. Part of being a leader is about conflict resolution. But what is
the best methods of conflict resolution? Lets unpack that question in this post.
Which Methods of Conflict Resolution Work Best?
Truth be told everyone has an opinion on this based on experience, research, or a combination of both. The
truth is there are countless ways to address conflict, both good and bad. Hopefully it is obvious that you do
not want to be on the bad side when addressing conflict. Nevertheless, there are a few tried and true
methods of conflict resolution that have been tested by many and that seem to have a high level of success.
Let’s look at two great methods of conflict resolution…
The Ladder of Inference:
The Ladder of Inference originated by organizational psychologist Chris Argyris and also used by Peter
Senge in The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. At the most basic level,
the Ladder of Inference shows how the human mind comes to conclusions based off of what they interpreted
and processed. This could be very far from reality or close to it. But if we all process and capture what we
see differently and put our own interpretations behind it without knowing the full scope of the situation,
conflict always will surface. So how does the Ladder of Inference help us process more effectively? See
the picture below:
The very first rung of the ladder addresses that we observe the world through our own lens. Then on the
second rung of the ladder we take that data that we observed and filter it to tailor to our beliefs. From there
we climb up the third rung of the ladder and we add meaning to what we have observed and filtered to our
beliefs. Now that we have meaning, we create assumptions then draw conclusions to the meanings that we
have established. Then for the last two rungs of the ladder we update our beliefs based off of what we
observed, processed, and assumed. Then we act accordingly to our outcome.
We all climb the Ladder of Inference all the time, thus conflict is abound constantly
The Ladder of inference is one of many methods of conflict resolution, but it works extremely well. Why is
that? Because if you understand this process you can identify those being affected by the conflict to which
rung of the ladder they are on. You can also start at the bottom of the ladder with each person or the group
and ask “help me understand…” By doing this you can walk everyone who is in conflict up each rung of the
ladder and see where the conflict started and also where it can be fixed. The Ladder of Inference is a great
tool for all leaders and managers to have. It not only helps you assess your own mental processing of what
has occurred, but is also helps you assess and understand those that you lead viewpoints. Methods of
conflict resolution need to have both logic and emotion.
Methods of Conflict Resolution Need To Address Emotions
Conflicts usually arise from an emotional reaction. The Ladder if Inference helps to logically solve a
conflict, but let’s face it logic is not always the best resolution to conflict when emotions are high. The
reason is that if our emotions flow through the limbic system of the brain. If you amygdala is triggered and
do to stress and your emotions then funnel into your limbic system logic will not help. Research shows that
it can take at least 20 minutes for someone who is highly emotional to be able to process logically.
Therefore, you need to assess where a person is emotionally in the conflict. The Ladder of Inference will
help greatly here. You can test the waters with trying to walk through the rungs, but if a person is so
emotionally taxed, the best advise would be to show empathy and give them time to adjust. If it becomes a
major distraction, tell them to go for a walk or some other method that will help them calm down.
Closing Thoughts On Methods of Conflict Resolution
The more methods of conflict resolution you have the better you are going to be able to keep order and have
a thriving culture. With no methods of conflict resolution, you run a very high risk of stressing those that
you lead out and diminishing the trust that they have in you to handle conflict. There are many other
methods of conflict resolution from the win – win to avoidance but having the two methods of conflict
resolution that I listed in this post will serve you tremendously. Make sure that you always keep many
methods of conflict resolution available.
Methods of Conflict Resolution