Conflict Resolution 101


by Andrew Yeaton

There are hundreds of recipes cooked up by therapists to help people navigate through conflict. From the strange to the overly complicated, you can probably find a new strategy to use every day of the year. However, when we are learning how to manage and resolve conflict the best strategy is usually and that is easy to remember and has simple-to-follow steps. Whether you are learning how to conflict with your spouse, your teenager, or your co-worker there are a few basic things to keep in mind that can help you walk the line between healthy confrontation and World War 3.

Before we begin, the most important thing to remember in conflict, as in life, is that you are only responsible for yourself. You are responsible for how you approach conflict and the other person is responsible for how they approach conflict. You can never control the outcome or response but you can control your approach.

The most important thing to remember in conflict, as in life, is that you are only responsible for yourself.

So this is a simple technique one of my mentors taught me when I was beginning to see more marriages in therapy. I don’t know where it came from, I do know there are tons of deviations of it, but this one has seemed to be effective with my past clients. It is called the 3 C’s…easy enough to remember. The three C’s of confrontation are Care, Concern, and Curiosity. It is a compassionate way to approach conflict and it highlights the reason we approach others in conflict, which is because we care for them. So I will break it down and provide a examples along the way…



We always want to start conflict with letting the other person know that the reason for addressing this conflict is only out of care. Instead of pointing a finger you can think of this as extending a hand. Oh, you also have to really care, people will see straight through feigned concern.

“Hey John, I want you to know how much I care about our friendship and I was hoping we could talk about something that happened between us last week so it does not affect our friendship in the future?”



The concern part allows you to express your point of view and ask to hear how the other person views the perceived conflict. This is just the data gathering section. In most conflict there is a message that was misinterpreted or misunderstood somewhere along the way. Just because you are concerned does not mean the other person is so be prepared for that.

“Hey John, I am concerned about the comment you made about how silly I look in my new acid-washed jeans because I felt embarrassed and hurt in front our co-workers. I understand that you may not have intended it in that way, and it is uncharacteristic of our relationship to make fun of each other, so I was hoping you could help me understand what you were trying to convey?



The Curiosity section helps you come up with alternative solutions next time a similar scenario comes up. Keep in mind the other person may not be willing to explore alternatives but this is where you get to ask.

“Hey John, I’m curious how else we could handle joking around with each other in the future. Maybe next time you could joke with me when we are not in front of my co-workers.”

There is no recipe that is going to solve all your conflict problems. But these simple steps will help you take responsibility for appropriately engaging in your side of the conflict. They also model for others a new way to talk about disagreements and conflict.