Effective Strategies for Conflict Resolution Coaching

Feb 21, 2018

You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.

Indira Gandhi

Coaching is generally about resolving internal conflicts. It is about unclenching the mind. The coaching process can be used for unclenching the fist as well. Conflicts arise when mind maps become rigid, listening dies, conversations turn into confrontations. A good coach would mediate or negotiate with multiple minds to help explore blocks to harmonious communication and create the awareness needed to bring about a resolution.

Crucial Conversations

Conflicts arise when:

  • Opinion are in conflict
  • Stakes are high
  • Emotions are high

Patterson calls these crucial conversations. Normal response of parties involved in such conversation is silence or violence, neither leading to resolution.

These are steps he recommends to resolve conflict.

  1. Start with the heart – No one can change another. They can only change themselves. You need to decide you really want for myself, others, relationship and yet be open to new options
  2. Learn to Look – Observe well what works and what doesn’t and tread carefully
  3. Make it safe – Step out when it gets hot. Show respect. Apologize if you goofed up. Establish an objective that is realistic and can be common.
  4. Master my stories – Go back if you are stuck. Don’t be rigid. Rewrite your story in line with what you want.
  5. STATE my path – Share facts. Tell your story.  Ask for others’ story. Talk without being rigid. Encourage others to test your facts
  6. Explore others’ paths – Listen actively, Ask not tell, Mirror. Agree with others where possible and build your options upon that agreement. Always expand options by using ‘yes…..and’ never  ‘yes…but’
  7. Move to action by deciding how to decide – Command, Consult, Vote, Consensus depending on situation.


The best way to resolve a conflict is by influencing others to see your point of view. Cialdini’s classic ‘Influence: Psychology of Persuasion’ presents the following factors that influence others.

  • Reciprocity – This is the simple yet uncommon principle of give and take. Is there an exchange of equal value? Forced imposition of moral principles do not work well unless the ‘what’s in it for me’ is addressed.
  • Scarcity – People want what they can’t get. Are you offering some thing which is meaningful in exchange?
  • Authority – People like to do what others do, especially ones they respect and admire. Can you bring in such people who are not easy to negotiate with, ones they will listen to?
  • Consistency – Nothing irks others more than fickleness. Be careful about what you commit. Think through. Once committed you may not be able to withdraw. Start with something small to agree on and build on it.
  • Liking – Create empathy and trust. Even if you have differences you can show respect and gain liking.


All conflicts arise out of polarized viewpoints. Generally, we get into trying to figure out the best way out, the best way for you and me. What if you looked at what is the best for each in the group with conflict and integrate them as far as possible.

Barry Johnson’s Polarity concept is used in coaching to resolve inner dilemmas. This concept can be equally powerful with two or more with conflicting options. The answer is not one or the other, but a mix of both.


Coacharya started with OLA as a process and expanded it to OLAA. OLAA stands for Observe, Listen, Agree and Act. It is based on Gestalt principle of Empty Chair, used in NLP as Perceptual Position. It is about putting yourself in another’s shoes and developing empathy.

When you are in conflict with another your reaction is to prove the other wrong. If for a moment you consider that the other person disagreeing with you is as intelligent as you are you have several options.

  1. Observe – Understand where the conflicting content is coming from. What is the context? Why is another intelligent person who you respect in another situation disagreeing with you now? Drop your ego and look for the context.
  2. Listen – Actively and globally listen to words, in between words, emotions and energy. Is the other person angry? Sad? Depressed? Frustrated? Shamed? What is happening within the mind of that person? Keep your mouth shut while you listen.
  3. Agree – Try to agree with at least 10% of what the other says. This makes that person less defensive and receptive to what you have to say. It makes the mind open.
  4. Act – Now tell your story supported by facts in a way that can influence the other, cognitively and emotionally.

Key to any conflict resolution is the end goal. If it is selfish the conflict cannot be resolved. Even if force is used it will only be temporary. The end goal must be mutually beneficial. There must be give and take. Conflict resolution is the process to reach that end goal when viewpoints differ. Negotiation, Influencing, Polarity, OLAA and other interventions are tools in this process.

As long as ego reigns supreme no conflict can be resolved. Dropping the ego requires creation of awareness. Awareness requires exploration of what is holding you back. Exploration needs a motivated outcome to work towards. This is the coaching process in reverse.

A good coach is a good mediator, negotiator and conflict resolver.

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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