How to Deal with Conflict by Using a Resolution Plan

Don't let messy emotions get in the way. Get-It-Done Guy explains why creating a resolution plan in advance is the best way to deal with conflict.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #320

I don’t like conflict. Conflict brings up messy emotions, and emotions are such a hassle. If we could just remove emotion from the equation, the world would be much simpler, right?

We would all be logical and everyone would understand the best course of action (the one that I recommend, of course.) There would be no bickering or disagreement, and even art could be conveniently created according to the parameters considered most pleasing to the human nervous system. And we could use mathematical notation everywhere.>

Manage Conflict in Advance

Since we’re stuck with emotion, though, the best we can do is learn to manage it in advance. The best way I know of managing conflict is to manage it when you’re calm and not in conflict mode.

Whether you’re in a relationship - or a workgroup, or starting a project, or doing a joint venture, or getting a new roommate or cubicle mate, or putting together a new team, or onboarding a new polyamorous family unit - it's ideal to solve your conflicts in advance. When you’re all in a good mood, munching on gummy bears and exchanging back rubs, that is the time to resolve your conflict. You resolve it by creating a resolution plan.

Use a Resolution Plan

Normally, when you disagree, you have a mature, adult discussion. If things are thrown, they’re thrown at the wall, not at the other person. Then you offer a tantalizing piece of Oreo ice cream cake as a peace offering, and everything changes. By the end of the meeting, everyone happily jumps on the consensus bandwagon and life is perfect.

But what if the things you throw are sharp and pointed, and seem to be aimed at the other person’s head, rather than the wall? That’s a sign to activate your resolution plan.

Your resolution plan is what you all agree now you’ll do then to resolve a disagreement that's so severe, it even resists Oreo ice cream cake.

Have a Safe Word

The first part of a resolution plan is a word or phrase you can say that lets everyone involved know that things are getting out of hand. You can yell, “Things are getting out of hand! Let’s use our resolution plan!” Or you can agree on a word or phrase that’s unlikely to come up in normal conversation, like “Perquackey.” Then when the action is nearing the boiling point, someone yells “Perquackey! Perquackey!” That’s the signal to switch to the resolution plan.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.