Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

Conflict Resolution Tools

Basic Mediation Paradigm
When two people are in conflict about an issue, it is usually because they are seeing the same situation in totally different ways:
Perceptions + Experiences + Priorities = Point of View #1
Perceptions + Experiences + Priorities = Point of View #2

Cooling-Off Method
When emotions are so charged that people aren’t willing to sit down together, try this:
1. Ask Person #1 to write a letter telling their story as completely as they can.
2. Deliver the letter to Person #2.
3. Ask Person #2 to respond in writing with their side of the story.
4. Deliver this response to Person #1.

Bring them together in private to discuss what each wants and what might satisfy their needs or resolve the problem.

Informal Version
“Let’s try something. How about if we agree that each of you gives the other person a chance to explain, uninterrupted, what you think is going on here. Then we’ll try to agree on what the main areas of difference are and talk about those one at a time.”
Not only does conflict resolution (another name for Alternative Dispute Resolution) result in better solutions, it leaves both people feeling that they are respected and behaved respectfully. They have learned the wisdom of really listening to other people before making assumptions about them. It is likely that each honestly believes that their point of view is “correct” and the other person is “wrong.”The simple conflict resolution process has been widely used, from elementary school playgrounds to divorce mediation sessions, to help people in conflict listen to each other and work toward a resolution .A supervisor or even a co-worker can serve as the third party or mediator:
• Sit down with them together, in privacy.
• Lay out the ground rules: no interrupting, no name-calling.
• Let them decide who talks first.
• Person #1 tells their story until they are satisfied that the Person #2 understands it. The third-party may ask questions to clarify the story.
• When they are finished, the third-party summarize what they heard, without judgment.
• Then Person #2 tells their story, while #1 listens. Again, the third-party summarizes what they heard.
• Then look for common ground. The third-party asks each person what they want –often they just want an apology, an acknowledgement, or some type of compromise.

The third-party helps the two people make an agreement, within the bounds of what is allowed in the workplace.
Example: An off-site supervisor feels left out of key decisions because his service chief calls informal meetings on site and forgets to ask for his input or tell him what has transpired. The supervisor feels that the off-site person is “nosy” or just seeking attention. Once they sat down with a third person (a staff psychologist), the supervisor understood that his boss had a spontaneous operating style and was not intentionally ignoring him. And the boss learned that the off-site person had substantive ideas to offer.They agreed on a weekly call time when all supervisors would talk together about issues affecting them all.

 Used with permission from U.S. Veteran’s Health Administration. National Center for Organization Development. Cincinnati,