Putting The 'I' In Conflict Resolution

Conflict Resolution

Confrontation starts when people express different experiences and interests. If we cannot express our interests, we cannot effectively manage or resolve conflict. “I” statements are a way to express our interests directly without evoking unnecessary defensiveness in the other party. By using “I” statements we take ownership of our feeling and our position, which makes it easier for the other person to listen to us. “I” statements increase the chance that the other partner will respond positively to your interests. For example – “I feel hurt when you don’t listen to my proposed ideas”

The “I” Statement Formula for Success:

  1. Ownership – “I feel frustrated with the progress on this project.”
  2. Problem – “I get worried when I see that 3 jobs are overdue.”
  3. Intermediate goal – “I am interested in determining commitments to action on these jobs.”
  4. End goal – “because we need to complete this project on time and according to plan.”

Confirming the Other Person’s Point of View

What we say to the other party helps us to suspend our interests and to remain open to change. Here are some steps for confirming the other person’s point of view:

  1. Slow down the process. Take time out. Take a breath, particularly if you encounter a negative tone.
  2. Shift your thinking and feeling away from yourselves and toward the other person’s experience. This process takes an act of will.
  3. Ask a constructive questions if you lack information (but don’t ask in the spirit of inquisition)
  4. Imagine what the other person thinks and feels. Take another deep breath.
  5. Confirm the person’s feelings, experience, and perspective. Act confidently as you do this. Remember you are not agreeing with other person’s reasons, and you are not surrendering your interests or principles.
  6. Offer to help as appropriate.
  7. Continue to negotiate.

For example: “I understand what you are saying and I can imagine how you must feel, can you help me understand a little more about your situation.”

Practice Using 'I' Statements

Whilst you're here, why not practice using 'I' statements by writing down an 'I' Statement for each of the following situations

  • When a colleague has let you down on a project deadline
  • When your boss overloads you with work
  • When a customer complains about a late/ incorrect delivery
  • When  supplier has let you down once again
  • When your partner has left a wet/ dirty towel on the bathroom floor again!

Have A Question?

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John Belchamber

Owner & Senior Consultant at Invoke Results

I have been passionate about developing people and business performance in small to medium sized businesses for over 20 years. As Founder & Senior Consultant at Invoke Results, my experience across the range of business disciplines that small business owners need to develop a better business is what attracts my clients. Be it developing website and social media strategies, or dealing with your people and performance issues. If you've got business headaches, I'm your pain relief!


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Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang , Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

Very great article John :)!! I've been reading this awesome book called you are not as smart as you think you are, and it's got some great concepts. We as humans are wired to jump to an emotional response vs. a logical response because that's how we saved ourselves when we hunt and gathered and we still carry those habits today, even though sometimes it's not particularly useful in modern life. Taking a big breath or moving the conversation to a later date will kick back your emotional responses and calm them down while you make logical decision - easier said then done, I will take more breaths :) Also do you find this habit more common in a particular gender? I'm curious :D

John Belchamber

John Belchamber , Owner & Senior Consultant at Invoke Results

Hi Wendy, thanks for the great comment - you always add value with them. Overcoming the fight or flight reflex is important (or at least being aware of its impact on one's behaviour) although i wouldn't want to remove it completely in case I needed it some day. The key to I statements is that you are not projecting your thoughts/opinions/feelings onto the other person (and thereby 'blaming' them), but taking responsibility for them yourself. Taking responsibility/accountability for one's emotions/actions is an important skill methinks. As for your question, I believe each gender can benefit from thinking about and developing their emotional intelligence ;)