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5 Simple Steps to Resolve Conflicts

Posted by Marsha Weisleder on 4/3/14 4:00 AM
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“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times...” Who knew that I’d be living the first line from Charles Dickens’ classic, A Tale of Two Cities? How could something so joyful be so stressful at the same time? Why do people fall apart instead of coming together? And how was I going to fix everything?

So what’s my problem? I’m in the midst of planning the happiest day of my life, my wedding! Of course, I’m dealing with all the typical stuff – how many people to invite, what to serve, and where to seat my guests. But on top of that, I have two bridesmaids, who used to be best friends, who aren’t speaking. Yes, it feels like I’m back in junior high.

Luckily, I was teaching Project Management for Trainers recently, and was reminded of our “5-Step Model to Resolve Conflicts.” Stay tuned for the results!

Step 1: Identify each party’s grievance.

Meet individually with each person and listen calmly to the grievance. Empathize with the individual but don’t take sides.

Step 2: Encourage each party to resolve the dispute through negotiation.

Emphasize the importance of resolving the conflict to keep the project on track. Explore options the individual would be willing to accept.

Step 3: Identify common interests.

Establish ground rules for the mediation and ensure each party has a chance to be heard. Control the discussion and defuse altercations before they develop. Ask each person to summarize the other party’s grievance and explain what is motivating him or her.

Step 4: Negotiate an agreement based on common interests.

Identify and build on common interests between both parties. Agree to disagree on differences.

So what do we mean by common interests? Last year, I had an opportunity to negotiate an agreement for my niece, Hillary, when she started her first year of university. Early on, Hillary complained about her roommate, Jennifer. You see, Hillary wanted the lights on at night and Jennifer wanted them off. Those were their positions. If we changed our focus to interests, Hillary wanted to read at night while Jennifer wanted to sleep. How could we negotiate an agreement? Get Hillary a night light and Jennifer a sleep mask. Problem solved!

Step 5: Monitor compliance to the negotiated agreement.

Ensure both parties clearly state they will follow the agreed upon actions as negotiated in the agreement.

Back to the “Bridesmaids” – my life, not the movie! I met with each of them separately and listened to their complaints. I encouraged them to resolve the issue (yes, I pulled the bride card) and brought them together. At first it was awkward, but after setting the ground rules, they began speaking AND really listening to one another. By the end, they were laughing, talking, and joking as if no time had passed. All was calm in my world again. Of course, I will be monitoring their compliance up until the big day. But for now, it’s just the best of times!



Marsha has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. She went on to attend Osgoode Hall Law School and practiced civil litigation for a few years. While working for a company as their in-house legal counsel, Marsha fell into a training position and never looked back! Each day, Marsha brings passion and excitement to her workshops, always encouraging her participants to find their own passion as well. Outside of the classroom, Marsha loves to spend time with her family, travel, and stay active. Of course her main obsession is Elvis! Some people might think she’s a little over-the-top about him, but doesn’t everyone have an Elvis shrine in their home? Maybe not…

Topics: influencing, tips-for-trainers

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