Resolving Conflict Between Others


Sometimes you will find that it is your job to play mediator between two parties in conflict. Certainly, if you see that two people you know and care about are conflicted, you will want to step in and help them to resolve their differences in an objective manner.
As you sharpen your mediation skills you will be able to point out areas in which parties have avoided past conflict and let resentment build up. Also, you will learn when to "stay out" of a conflict when your help is unwelcome. This article will deal solely with being a mediator, that is to say, someone who is good at resolving personal conflict between others.

You may be asked to mediate, or you may volunteer to do so, but all parties must be agreeable to the idea of a mediator in order for the process to work well. As a mediator, you will perform the following duties:

  • You will get all sides of the story and look over all evidence, if there is any (e.g. photographs, a dented car, a ripped shirt, etc.) and examine everything objectively.
  • You will try to find a solution to the conflict in an honest and unbiased manner.
  • You will offer the resolution to the parties, and give them suggestions on how best to implement the resolution.
  • You will check back with the parties to see if the conflict has truly been resolved. If not, you will offer another solution.

There are a few basic steps that will help the mediation process get off on the right foot:

A. Make sure that all parties are open to having you mediate, or can become open to the idea with some explanation of what it entails.

B. Interview each person involved in the conflict. It may help to write down questions that you want to ask each person to gain clarity and insight into the situation.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Conflict Resolution Techniques course?

C. After "interviewing" each person involved in the conflict, find out if there is underlying resentment from past conflict that is clouding the current issue.

D. If it will help you to gain insight into an ongoing relationship, speak with associated friends or family members. Be sure to ask the permission of the parties in conflict before doing this.

E. After giving yourself time to digest the particulars of the conflict, brainstorm on the matter by writing down every, and any, solution that comes to mind, even if it seems ridiculous or silly. Often, this is a means of discovering a great creative solution.

F. Offer up your solution to both parties. But before you do, be sure that it is a completely fair resolution.

A mediator is someone who plays the role of go-between or negotiator for two or more individuals. There are several important things to remember when taking the role of mediator:

  • Always remain unbiased and objective. If you cannot, you must step out of the role and allow those you were mediating for to find someone who can remain objective.
  • Set ground rules for both parties, such as no name-calling, no dishonesty.
  • Be sure to get both sides of the story. Make sure you are getting all the specific details and that the facts are correct.
  • Keep a positive attitude, this will have the effect of effecting the conflicted individuals.
  • Be sure to secure a verbal agreement from both parties that they will accept the solution you have given them, whether or not they think your decision is in their favor.
  • Consult a friend or objective person if you need clarity or extra input. Do not feel you have to mediate all on your own.
  • If you cannot find a workable solution to the conflict, don't be afraid to say so. You may need more time to think about it, or the conflict may be very difficult. If the problem is one that requires professional assistance, such as that from a doctor or mental health professional, say so. That advise, in and of itself, is a form of resolving the conflict.
Some things you should not do when mediating a conflict:
  • Never take on this role if you feel uncomfortable with the specific conflict in question.
  • Never lie or deceive either party, even if you think it might help the situation. You can soften the words of the other party, but do not lie.
  • Don't allow yourself to be rushed, or influenced, by either party.
  • Don't turn a molehill into a mountain; in other words, don't make the problem seem bigger than it really is. If it is a small conflict, keep your solution reasonable and simple.
  • Don't restrict yourself to one solution for fear that it will create more conflict. If you come up with two or several, offer these as options for possible resolutions.
  • Don't give up right away; if the problem seems irresolvable, look at it from another perspective, or try a different tactic.


Playing mediator can be a great way to flex your creative problem-solving muscles. You can help people who are stuck or clouded by the emotions surrounding the problem they are having with another. If you find that you are very good at mediating conflict, and you enjoy doing it, you may want to look into this as a career choice. The use of conflict resolution mediators is gaining popularity in schools, universities, businesses, and the legal system.
What To Do If the Opposing Party Refuses to Participate in Resolution

Most conflicts between family and friends can be resolved with a little effort, however, there are some instances when the other party refuses to allow a resolution. They may resist, tell you they do not want to participate, or start another conflict simply to avoid a resolution to the initial problem. If this is an isolated incident then it is often best to let the situation go. There are times when it is best to leave a resolution for another day, or situation. However, if the person in question continually creates situations of conflict with you, another family member, friends, co-workers, or multiple people, there is most likely a serious underlying issue at work. Drug addiction, alcohol abuse, mental health problems, extremely high stress levels, or physical illness may be one of the causes of continual conflict in relationships. In these cases, the person may have no desire to resolve the issue (or any conflicts) because of several reasons. They may not be thinking clearly or rationally, and thus, are unable to compromise or take responsibility for their part in the conflict. They may be fearful that the problem they are having will be bought up, and they will have to confront the deeper issue. If they are not ready or willing to do anything about their problem, they will resist any confrontation concerning it with great vigor. Try not to judge those with deeper issues too harshly. We all have problems and events in life that push us to erratic, or even self-abusive, behavior. An addiction can be considered an illness, just as depression, anxiety or stress can be, so keep an open mind and let the person know that you want to help, not judge.

If you believe that a deeper-rooted problem is causing unreasonable conflict in a relationship with a friend or loved one, it is suggested that you seek professional assistance. Mental health professionals, or your family medical doctor, may be of assistance to you. Also there are many excellent 12-step programs -- such as Alanon, Alateen, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) -- that have been helping people with addictions, and those they love, for decades. They have a proven track record of helping people recover from their addictions through interaction with others similarly afflicted. Alanon is a group for spouses, partners, and friends of alcoholics, or anyone who is negatively affected by another's abuse of alcohol; Alateen is for teen children of alcoholics; NA is for those suffering from any type of drug addiction, including prescription and street drugs; Naranon is for loved ones, friends, and co-workers of those addicted to drugs.

It is nearly impossible to resolve conflict with someone who is addicted, or suffering from a mental health problem. The root of the problem must first be attended to. Thus, do not attempt to discuss, mediate, or resolve conflict of a serious sort until those deeper issues have been confronted and dealt with in some manner.

Resources such as those mentioned above may be able to guide you in the right direction as to what the problem might be and what steps you may be able to take to avoid constant conflict with this person. Most importantly, you will be able to find the proper help needed to resolve the underlying issue that your loved one or friend is having. In this way, you will be able to begin having a healthy relationship with this person, and help them resolve their problem, rather than allowing them to deny it. Remember what Albert Einstein said: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!