Conflict Management: Definition, Skills, List, Examples

Two businesswomen in discussion in conference room
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Strong conflict management skills are an advantage in most positions, as conflict is virtually impossible to avoid. It is human nature to disagree, and disagreements are in fact healthy when approached correctly. Eliminating conflict entirely would cause its own problems: there would be no diversity of opinion and no way for us to catch and correct flawed plans and policies.

But poor communication or interpersonal tension can easily cause simple disagreements to flare up into resentment or worse. Conflicts that are allowed to fester and grow will ultimately diminish productivity and damage staff morale. This is why employers seek employees with the skills to manage and diffuse conflict.

What Are Conflict Management Skills?

As we have established, the aim for professionals should not be to avoid conflict, but to resolve it in an effective manner.

Individuals who handle conflict in a respectful, optimistic way create the chance for growth and learning within an organization.

Communicating clearly, empathetically, and patiently leads to favorable outcomes and keeps professional relationships strong.

Types of Conflict Management Skills

Communication 

Much unnecessary conflict can be avoided simply with clear, accurate written and verbal communication; a single lost email could lead to failed plans and fingers pointed. Assumptions about what other people already know, think, or intend can cause resentment or worse. Many people argue purely because they want to feel heard. Simply being a good listener can be enough to inspire trust and resolve hurt feelings. Examples of good communication skills include:

  • Quickly Addressing Problems
  • Understanding Reluctant Participants
  • Formalizing Agreements
  • Active Listening
  • Leadership
  • Mediating
  • Meeting with Parties
  • Modeling Reasonable Dialogue
  • Negotiating
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Open Dialogue
  • Suppressing Conflict-Provoking Behaviors
  • Teaching Positive Behaviors
  • Written Communication

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand one’s own feelings and those of others, and to handle those feelings well. People who have high emotional intelligence are good at identifying and meeting the needs of others while taking responsibility for their own needs and feelings. A few ways they do this are: 

  • Being Adaptable
  • Being Analytical
  • Asserting Feelings
  • Compromising
  • Showing Curiosity
  • Forgiving Transgressions
  • Helping Others
  • Identifying Triggers
  • Recognizing Improvements
  • Setting Ground Rules
  • Showing Respect
  • Modifying Behavior
  • Being Motivated
  • Being Optimistic
  • Being Self-Aware
  • Displaying Self-Regulation

Empathy

Empathy means feeling what others feel. The ability to see a situation from someone else’s viewpoint, and to understand their needs, motivations, and possible misunderstandings, is critical to effective conflict management. Some people are naturally more empathetic than others, but empathy can be developed.

At its most useful, empathy is augmented by an intellectual understanding of another’s situation, since emotional empathy alone can sometimes create complicated scenarios. Empathy is best applied in a work environment when paired with critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and other types of discernment. Hallmarks of empathy include:

  • Accountability
  • Asking for Feedback
  • Building Trust
  • Showing Compassion
  • Embracing Diversity and Inclusion
  • Giving Constructive Feedback
  • Handling Difficult People
  • Managing Emotions
  • High Emotional Intelligence
  • Identifying Nonverbal Cues
  • Recognizing Differences
  • Understanding Different Viewpoints
  • Good Interpersonal Skills
  • Ability to Recognize Problems
  • Good Self-Control
  • Ability to Embrace Different Opinions

Creative Problem Solving

Understanding and communication are all very well and good, but do not help much if you don’t have a solution for the underlying problem, whatever that problem may be. Conflict often happens because no one can come up with a workable solution, so resolving the conflict depends on creating a solution. That makes problem-solving an in-demand skill for employers. Examples of problem-solving conflicts in the workplace include:

  • Conflict Analysis
  • Brainstorming Solutions
  • Collaborating
  • Verbal Communication
  • Convening Meetings
  • Creativity
  • Decision Making
  • Designating Sanctions
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Sense of Humor
  • Goal Integration
  • Monitoring Compliance
  • Reconfiguring Relationships
  • Fair Resolution

More Conflict Management Skills

Here are additional conflict management skills for resumes, cover letters, job applications, and interviews. Required skills will vary based on the job to which you're applying, so also review our list of skills listed by job and type of skill.

  • Apologizing
  • Avoiding Punishing
  • Being Present
  • Calmness
  • Impartiality
  • Intuitiveness
  • Ability to "Let It Go"
  • Patience
  • Positivity
  • Ability to Prioritize Relationships
  • Respecting Differences
  • Separating Yourself
  • Stress Management
  • Ability to Take Criticism

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

ADD SKILLS TO YOUR RESUME: Include the terms most closely related to the job in your resume, especially in the description of your work history.

HIGHLIGHT SKILLS IN YOUR COVER LETTER: You can incorporate your most relevant terms into your cover letter.

DISCUSS YOUR SKILLS AT JOB INTERVIEWS: Keep the top skills listed here in mind during your interview, and be prepared to give examples of how you've used each.