EQI - Emotional Intelligence - header image

Conflict Resolution



Increasing the Chances of Success

Basic Steps

Old Methods and Their Results

Core Topics

Respect | Empathy
Caring | Listening

Free EQ for Everybody Book


Nearly all conflicts involve underlying emotional issues. The stronger the feelings, the more difficult the resolution. To resolve conflicts, then, it is absolutely necessary to address the feelings of all parties. Listed below is a conflict resolution model which emphasizes emotions.


Increasing the Chances of Success

The probability of a mutually agreeable solution is increased when:

  • The parties are in direct communication

  • The parties have learned the basics skills of Emotional Literacy, Listening, and Validating

  • The parties honestly communicate both thoughts and feelings

  • There is a mutual respect of needs and feelings.

  • Neither party feels superior or more powerful.

  • Participation is voluntary, not forced.

  • The goal is a win-win outcome.

  • This principle is followed:

First seek to understand, then to be understood.1

The Basic Steps - S. Hein

A. Seek To Understand

  • Validate each person's feeling.
  • Confirm a willingness to solve problem.
  • Seek understanding of the cause of the feeling.
  • Confirm accurate understanding. Paraphrase.
  • Identify the underlying unmet emotional needs.
  • Show empathy.
  • Ask the powerful and positive question:

What would help you feel better?

B. Seek to be Understood:

  • Share your feelings & needs
  • Confirm accurate reception & understanding.

C. Mutually generate options & resolutions

  • Brainstorm solutions (while withholding evaluation/judgment).
  • Discuss each party's feelings about alternatives.
  • Make selection which maximizes positive feelings and minimizes negative feelings.



1. Resist inclination to focus on behavior at the expense of addressing the feelings behind the behavior.

2. Allow the least powerful person the lead role in generating and evaluating options. This helps balance the power.

Note: Manuel J. Smith, author of When I Say No I Feel Guilty. Smith says, in addition to the two traditional ways of responding to conflict, fight or flight, there is a third way.

This third way is to verbally problem solve.

In all my reading, this is the only time I have ever seen this idea expressed, but how much sense it makes! And if we could all remember just this one point, what a difference it would make.


Old Methods Used by Adults on Children:

Adapted from Thomas Gordon. Although he was talking about children and adults, the basic ideas can be applied whenever there is an imbalance of power in a conflict. S. Hein

  Method used Results Are That Child or Teen May Feel
1 Ordering, directing, commanding, forcing controlled, forced, powerless, helpless, discouraged, incompetent, resentful, disrespected, rebellious, dependent
2 Warning, admonishing, threatening afraid, threatened, forced, coerced, discouraged, powerless, resentful, insecure, disrespected, rebellious, dependent
3 Exhorting, moralizing, preaching preached to, bad, wrong, guilty, inferior, inadequate, unworthy, powerless, dependent
4 Advising, suggesting, solving controlled, incompetent, underestimated, untrusted, dependent, alone
5 Lecturing, "Dr. Spocking" invalidated, misunderstood, alone, tuned-out, uncared for, underestimated
6 Judging, criticizing, disagreeing judged, criticized, unaccepted, resentful, guilty, inferior
7 Name-calling, labeling labeled, misunderstood, different, unaccepted, stereotyped, disrespected, alienated, alone
8 Ridiculing, mocking ridiculed, mocked, offended, insulted, disrespected, alienated, alone
9 Shaming, blaming, guilt tripping shamed, blamed, guilty, bad, inadequate, insecure, defensive, dependent
10 Interrogating interrogated, defensive, attacked, probed, questioned, confused, insecure, intimidated, untrusted, doubted, tested, untrusting, skeptical, resentful, offended, insulted, underestimated
11 Withdrawing, silence minimized, weak, helpless, victimized, guilty, invalidated, disrespected, discounted, uncared about, misunderstood, alone, punished
12 Distracting, humoring, diverting Distracted, evaded, not taken seriously
13 Falsely praising or agreeing misunderstood, unimportant, invalidated, confused, unsupported
14 Falsely reassuring, sympathizing, patronizing, consoling, supporting distracted, diverted, invalidated, repressed, denied, minimzed, disrespected, confused, dependent

Adopted from T. Gordon, 1975 p 317)

Gordon says the "overall result tends towards low self-esteem" of the one who is less powerful.

With the conflict resolution method proposed here, the less powerful person is more likely to feel:

Understood, validated, important, respected, trusted, valued, esteemed, self-reliant, independent, self-assured, safe, secure, encouraged, supported, powerful, capable, competent, confident, empowered, optimistic.

This in turn helps lead towards higher self-esteem and more agreeability and cooperation.


1. From Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People