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10 Steps to Conflict Resolution

Posted By Darren Rowse 15th of September 2006 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments


Yesterday we talked about Relational Communication Skills – essential skills for blogging relationships (ironically the picture I used in the post caused some to question whether I had some poor communication skills going on).

Today I want to turn my attention to conflict resolution, another essential skill (closely related to communication skills) for relational bloggers.

As a basis for this post I want to share a 10 point process that I share with couples (which comes out of a resource by the ‘Prepare/Enrich’ marriage counselling program). These steps are designed for couples working through specific areas of conflict in an ongoing relationship – as a result some of them are much more applicable for blogging relationships which tend to be more short term and between people not really in relationship (ie – this won’t be perfect, but lets see what we can get out of it).

Here are the 10 steps with a few thoughts on each:

1. Set a time and place for discussion

In most cases blogging conflict happens in posts and comments between bloggers. This is something I actually enjoy (if done well) but is also something of a problem for constructive resolution (due to its public nature and the fact that conflict rarely stays between two people). If a comment thread is becoming destructive I generally attempt to take the discussion to a more private setting either via email or IM. Doing this tends to take some of the sting out of the interaction. Also to set up a discussion for some point in the future helps to give each party a little space to calm down and approach the interaction more reasonably.

2. Define the problem or issue of disagreement

Many online conflicts tend to spill out into related topics to the point where parties end up not really knowing what they’re fighting about at all. Attempting to keep a discussion to one main point (at a time) can mean you’re more likely to move through it and then tackle another issue.

3. How do you each contribute to the problem?

Conflict is rarely a result of one person solely being at fault in a situation. Communicating to each other not only what the other person has done wrong but identifying your own failings can be a humbling experience and usually brings you a long way closer to resolving the issue.

4. List past attempts to resolve the issue that were not successful

As blogging conflicts don’t usually come out of longer term relationships this might not be as relevant. However there are occasions where the same issues surface again and again and it can be helpful to identify previous occasions and look at what the resolution was. Identifying patterns of conflict can be quite illuminating (you might just learn a thing or two about yourself when doing it).

5. Brainstorm. List all possible solutions

When people fight they generally push one argument or solution upon others and are not willing to entertain the idea that there might be other possible solutions. Listing the alternative opinions and solutions can help both parties to find compromise.

6. Discuss and evaluate these possible solutions

Talking over the alternatives in a neutral and objective way helps both parties to see the pros and cons of different ways of thinking. This is where the assertiveness and active listening skills that we unpacked yesterday come to the fore.

7. Agree on one solution to try

In some cases there is no ‘solution’ needed (other than to agree to disagree and to move on) – however in some cases there might be more. Agreeing how and when to finish the conflict is important and stops those lingering flame wars where neither party is willing to let the other one have the final word.

8. Agree on how each individual will work toward this solution

If there’s some sort of agreement on the resolution to agree to how each person will contribute to it is important so that there is accountability around it.

9. Set up another meeting. Discuss your progress

I actually find that when you’ve had a blog conflict with someone and have moved to some point of resolution that it can be helpful to privately contact the person later on to debrief on it and to see if there is any further resolution needed.

10. Reward each other as you each contribute toward the solution

Positive affirmation goes a LONG way in all types of relationships and in blogging it’s just as important.

The above process isn’t ‘perfect’ for bloggers but I suspect that if we (I definitely need to work on it) used it as a basis for our interactions with each other that we’d be a lot more productive. Once again, it takes a commitment to all parties involved to move through conflict in a positive way (something I find only some people are willing to do).

PS: Conflict isn’t a Bad Thing

Lastly I want to finish with the thought that conflict can actually be a good thing. While I know I avoid it (my family was always a very calm and conflict avoiding type environment) I also am learning to see conflict as an opportunity to grow.

Conflict in blogging actually can result in some really wonderful eventualities. I can think of a number of times that great ideas and great new friendships have come out of conflict with other bloggers for me. While it isn’t always easy – it’s definitely worth entering into conflict with a willingness to learn and grow.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Great tips here. I’m always telling people to talk to their significant others when they are having problems. It is amazing how many people who just ignore them. This will definitely help people out if they follow this advice.

  2. lol. I love the Barbie hippie picture. I agree, discussion and conflict play a big role in blogging.

  3. Conflict will happen and your correct Darren, it is not a bad thing. In many cases we can cause conflict by doing the right thing. Everyone is different in some way or another. If both people in a relationship where the same then one of the two is not really needed. And we know that is just not the case from what the Bible says.

  4. Blogging is a past time, by trade I am a CFO for a large pump manufacturer. By definition my daily job is dealing with constant conflict and conflict resolution. Your advice is sound when it comes to conflicts in blogging as well as conflicts in daily business life. Calm discussion can make a negative confrontation into a wonderful opportunity. I firmly beleive you can always turn a negative into a positive.

  5. Loads of wonderful and clearly-explained steps Darren. Number 9 is especially useful if you want to build long-term relationships. I have two add ons that I find very useful in real life (haven’t used them in the blogosphere yet).

    In #3 you wrote, “Communicating to each other not only what the other person has done wrong…” Telling others that they are wrong generally leads to hurt feelings and defensiveness since most of us don’t like being wrong. In other words, if I say, “You shouldn’t have been late for our meeting,” this simply my judgment and likely is received as such. Instead if I choose to say, “When you didn’t show up on time for our meeting, it was easy for me to believe you didn’t value my time,” I’m telling the other person how I reacted to their action. This allows me to own that it’s my interpretation while giving them data to consider.

    Regarding #10 I add: Most of us hear far more criticism in life than praise, so offering genuine appreciation is something that will make you stand out and pull people toward you. Having solid relationships in the first place makes conflict that much easier to resolve.

  6. Conflicts resulting from blog posts or comments are quite rare in the Philippines. Only the serious pro-bloggers or business types get into such kind of conflicts. Ordinary bloggers know that when you have nothing good to say then say nothing at all or leave no comment behind.

    It’s like a social bond that everyone understands and adheres to. Besides, rude comments are easily deleted by the concerned blog owners plus their blogs are littered with disclaimer notes detailing that they reserve the right to delete comments they deem defamatory or otherwise could start a conflict.

    We Pilipino bloggers abhor conflicts even in the web, that’s why we only leave good and positive comments behind. If we have issues, most are decent enough to resolve it tru a personal e-mail, wait out what happens then blog about it.

  7. […] 10 Steps to Conflict Resolution As a basis for this post I want to share a 10 point process that I share with couples (which comes out of a resource by the ‘Prepare/Enrich’ marriage counselling program). These steps are designed for couples working through specific areas of conflict (tags: blogging conflict resolution) […]

  8. […] I’ve noticed a recent flurry of “how to respond to negative comments on blogs” articles, including posts by ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse, Flyte’s Rich Brooks, and Lorelle VanFossen. Seth Godin wrote one on dealing with an angry customer that the Blog Herald adapted to commenters. I guess it must be on a lot of minds right now. […]

  9. I’ve produced an article titled, “Dynamics of Group Polarization” in which I discuss how a group can easily become polarized in view, leading to conflict. Resolution is possible under a particular set of circumstances no matter the size of the group, which can be as small as two people and as large as a nation. So even in a one-on-one communication in a blog for instance, there can exist polarization and conflict that can be resolved under the same set of circumstances as would pertain to a larger group.


  10. Yaris says: 05/16/2007 at 1:58 am

    That last part, ‘Conflict isn’t a Bad Thing’, is what i’ve been lokking for. Not many people say this or rather admit it. I agree, without conflicts, how do we get by?

  11. These are great tips! I also think it’s important for couples to know that there are skills to help them manage the inevitable conflicts they will have. As a matter of fact, how well a partnership does depends on how well conflict is managed. As a relationships expert, I offer a free teleseminar, “The 7 Tools to Manage Conflict Communication.” To hear it, go to: http://choicerelationships.com/teleseminar_resources

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