Conflict Resolution: Collaborate & Problem Solve

Although we know that conflict is a natural part of life, it doesn’t diminish the fact that conflicts can take a lot of energy out of us and put us into situations (and moods) we just aren’t comfortable with. As humans, we like harmony, but in order to achieve it, we need to work on ways to manage the conflicts that arise so we can move past them and on to bigger and better things. When we fail to manage conflict, whether at home or in the workplace, we set ourselves up for other problems, such as being taken advantage of, being resentful about things that we feel aren’t fair, or simply that there are unresolved issues eating away at us. Although not every conflict can be managed successfully with ‘win-wins’ all around, what’s important is knowing what – if any – strategy is needed and having the courage and commitment to work it out.

Strategy #4: Collaboration

When there is sufficient time, collaborating and problem solving is usually the best conflict resolution technique. It does take time and effort to problem solve, so this is not a ‘quick fix’. Collaborating involves rolling up our sleeves, putting aside our emotions and egos, and working together to come up with a win-win solution that appeases both parties (or all parties when more than two are involved). The goal is to find a solution where everyone feels satisfied.

Getting the ‘win-win’

For a true collaboration to be effective, everyone needs to be on board and committed to resolving the issue, with as little hostility or intimidation as possible. Furthermore, for this strategy to be effective, there are several other key things needed for success – whether the conflict is at home, at work, or in other areas of our lives:

  1. Both parties need to feel listened to and understood. If this piece is missing, then resentment and subsequent feelings of unfair treatment can prevail, assuming a solution is able to be reached at all.
  2. Mutual respect. This doesn’t mean everyone has to be best friends, but it does mean we need to demonstrate that we care enough to want an amicable solution.
  3. Give and take. Multiple viewpoints and ideas need to be taken into consideration.
  4. Shared responsibilities. There can’t be one party doing all the work or sacrificing more than another.
  5. Reaching a consensus that everyone supports moving forward on. This can involve examining all sorts of possible options before finding a solution that really works.

As you can see from this list, the time commitment involved with this level of conflict resolution can be significant, and isn’t something we should embark on haphazardly. In fact, like all things worth doing properly, it takes time to get comfortable with these skills, and refine our ability to work with others in situations that may feel awkward or intimidating. Many people decide to involve a third-party mediator to help with resolving disputes, which, although it can add extra expense and time to the situation, it can also offer some much-needed direction, guidance and an external perspective to help resolve the issue.

I’ve been fortunate enough to take part in many different team adventures throughout my life, from wilderness camping to adventure racing. It isn’t uncommon for conflicts to arise over varying ideas, ways to get us out of a bind or directions. It’s important to remember in these instances that everyone’s individual success (and sometimes survival) is fully or at least partially dependent on the success of the group. Thus, it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that the group doesn’t fall apart. Collaboration and problem solving is an essential part of keeping the group aligned and working towards the same end goal.

The final word on conflict resolution


“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford