Conflict Resolution Guide

conflict resolution

Conflict is a normal, natural part of human relationships. People will not agree about everything all the time. In and of itself, conflict is not necessarily a negative thing. When handled constructively it can help people to stand up for themselves and others, and work together to achieve a mutually satisfactory solution. But if conflict is handled poorly it can cause anger, hurt, divisiveness and more serious problems. This guide discusses how to deal with conflict in a constructive manner.

Sources of Conflict

There can be many causes or reasons for conflict. However, some of the most common include:

•   Personal differences such as values, ethics, personalities, age, education, gender, social and economic status, cultural background, temperament, health, religion, political beliefs, etc.

•   A clash of ideas, choices, or actions. For instance, conflict can occur when people have incompatible goals, when they are in direct competition, or even when they have different work styles.  Finally, poor communication or miscommunication is one of the biggest causes of conflict.

Preventing Conflict

While it isn’t possible to prevent all conflict, there are steps that you can take to try to keep conflict to a minimum. One way to manage conflict is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Preventing conflict is not the same as avoiding conflict. Preventing conflict means behaving and communicating in a way that averts needless conflicts.

Consider the following tips:

•   Respect differences. Many conflicts arise from differences in gender, generations, cultures, values, etc. We live in an increasingly diverse world. Learn to respect and celebrate peoples’ differences and their opinions.

•   Treat others as you’d like to be treated. Regardless of your personal opinion of someone, be professional, courteous, respectful, and tolerant, even when you’re frustrated. If a person treats you disrespectfully, calmly tell them you do not appreciate it. Do not exacerbate the situation by retaliating with inappropriate behavior or comments.

•   Keep negative opinions to yourself—Most people are put off by hearing negative comments about others—especially related to personal issues. In the workplace, this may lead to disciplinary action. Friends and acquaintances may be equally “turned off’ by negative comments about someone, particularly if they feel they are being drawn into a conflict or being asked to take sides. If you need to vent about a personal issue, do so outside of the workplace, keep it to a close, trusted friend or a loved one and keep it to a minimum.

•   Keep your distance—Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. Often the conflicts arise with those who are closest to us. It is often easier to get along if you respect one another’s privacy and boundaries. Taking a break from each other can go along way in keeping the peace.

Mutual Conflict Resolution

In most cases you should be able to resolve conflicts by working with others involved. Here are some steps to consider:

•     Step One: Identify the purpose and importance of the conflict—and your mutual desire to solve it.

•     Step Two: Takes turns listening to each other’s side. This is a very important step and one that requires good listening skills.

•     Step Three: Once all the issues are discussed, repeat and summarize what was said. It may help to write this down or even create minutes ‘ to document issues discussed.

•     Step Four: Ask questions as needed and encourage others to do the same. Do you understand their point of view? Are you sure they understand yours? Clarify as needed.

•     Step Five: No matter how intense the conflict, you should always find issues or points that you agree upon: For instance, “we agree our goal is to increase sales by 10 percent this year. Or, “we agree that we need to cut our household costs, we just don’t agree on what costs we can cut.

•     Step Six: Next, list ALL Solutions— even those that may seem unrealistic, unreasonable, or wrong.

•     Step Seven: Review all the possible solutions and highlight those you find mutually acceptable. Hopefully you will have at least one or two that you agree upon.

•     Step Eight: Choose the one (or few) that you agree will work best.

•     Step Nine: Put a plan into action.

What steps will you take to implement? How will you review progress?

By creating step-by-step guidelines and mutually agreed upon solutions and action plans, you should be able to minimize conflict and achieve desired goals.

Dealing Constructively with Anger

Conflict can result in anger. Anger is a normal human emotion ranging from annoyance to absolute rage. Each person’s anger “triggers” are different, some may get angry at a friend’s behavior, other causes of anger can be more serious—such as personal problems or a previous traumatic experience.

In and of itself, anger is not necessarily a problem—when focused appropriately it can help people to stand up for themselves and others. But if anger is channeled in negative, inappropriate ways it can cause problems. Consider the following ideas to help deal constructively with anger:

Anger is a strong emotion, and isn’t always easy to control. Two crucial skills in managing anger are self-awareness and self-control. Try to recognize and identify your feelings, especially anger. Once the feeling is identified you can then think about the appropriate response.

— Self-awareness is being conscious of thoughts and feelings. Examine how and why you are feeling angry to better understand and manage these feelings. For example, ask yourself questions such as “why am I angry?” or “What is making me feel this way?” to assist in self-analysis. Learn to recognize your personal warning signs for anger.

— Self-control means stopping and considering actions before taking them. Learn to stop and think before you act or speak in anger. For example, envision a stop sign when you are angry and take the time to think about how to react. Explore techniques to calm down such as counting backwards from ten to one, deep breathing, or just walking away.

– Relax. Try relaxation exercises, such as breathing deeply from the diaphragm (the belly, not the chest) and slowly repeating a calming word or phrase like “take it easy.” Or to think of relaxing experiences, such as sitting on a beach or walking through a forest.

– Think positively. Remind yourself that no one is out to get you, you are just experiencing some of the rough spots of daily life.

– Problem-solve. Identify the specific problem that is causing the anger and approach it head-on—even if the problem does not have a quick solution.

– Communicate with others. Angry people tend to jump to conclusions and speak without thinking about the consequences of what they are saying. Slow down and think carefully about what you want to say. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying.

– Manage stress. Set aside personal time to deal with the daily stresses of work, activities, and family. Ideas include: listening to music, writing in a journal, exercising, meditating, or talking about your feelings with someone you trust.  Change the scene. A change of environment may help reduce angry feelings. For example, if your co-workers or friends are angry frequently and/or make you angry, consider spending time with people who may contribute more to your self-confidence and well-being.

– Find a distraction. If you can’t seem to let your anger go, it can help to do something distracting, for example, read or watch television or a movie

– Set a good example. If you are teaching your child to control their anger, make sure you practice what you preach. Show by example how you manage your own anger.

When to Seek Help

There may be times when, despite your best efforts, you may not be able to resolve a conflict on your own. If so, get help.

If the conflict is work-related, you may need to speak to your manager or human resources department, particularly if the situation is affecting your work or impeding your chances of achieving goals.

In any conflict, if the conflict is is so severe that it’s leading to serious relationship problems, or creates a danger of physical harm and/or emotional or psychological damage, seek immediate help. Consider the following sources of assistance:

  •    Your employee assistance program (EAP)
  •    Medical practitioner
  •    Mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or mental health counselors, etc.
  •    Community mental health resources

When using these strategies, you will be in a better position to quickly and effectively resolve conflicts in your life.

13 Questions for 13 Reasons Why

13 Questions for 13 Reasons Why

Author: Dina Rabhan

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As a mom of seven daughters, a professional in the film industry, a teacher, a social worker, a self-proclaimed child advocate and someone who cares about the future of our human race, I watched what is now the most talked about new Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why.

And I am glad that I did.

I found the series gut-wrenching, sad, and tragically real.

I know there is a lot of controversy about its explicit content and grave concern about its impact on young viewers. That’s an important conversation to have. But for now, and for me, the show is a reminder of many important truths. As a believer in the “show, don’t tell” way of teaching, this series is a must-see for adults.

Why? Because we need a wake up call. While all of us are arguing about whether this series should have been made for young viewers, let’s not miss the elephant in the room: adult cluelessness. We need to open our eyes and realize that grown-ups often have no idea what might really be going on with their children: pervasive drinking, drugs, sex, and myriad mental health issues. It’s time for us to take a long hard look at what we are doing, what we are seeing, and more importantly, what we might be missing.

I have not stopped thinking about it since I finished binge-watching last week, and I am haunted by questions for myself and for all the adults who have the power to make a difference for our children.

So here are my 13 questions for 13 Reasons Why:

1. Why must adolescence and high school be so painful and wretchedly lonely? How can a student standing in a hallway filled with hundreds of other students feel so completely alone and invisible?

2. Do we work hard enough to know the stories of all of our high school students? Do we listen enough? Do we hear? Do we read between the lines? Do we slow down to notice the subtleties in their spoken and written words?

3. Why are cafeterias and lunchtime ALWAYS horrible? Since my John Hughes movie days, nothing has changed. The lonely girl looking for a place to sit is trite and yet not an anachronism. #schoolfail

4. Don’t even get me started on how the show portrays class time in the school: dull, tedious, boring, and overall something the students appear to tolerate at best. A teacher puts a movie on and instructs the class to pay attention, and not use their devices while he gets comfortable for a nap. Did the millions of children watching the show relate to this depiction? #ShameOnUs

5. WTF. OMG. Social media have completely changed the high school experience. Watching the wildfire of destruction from a text and a WhatsApp was sobering and horrifying. Are we doing enough to help our young people make good choices, do what’s right, and understand the power of social media and its potential for causing pain?

6. Do schools see themselves honestly for what they really are and what the school experience is like for ALL of their students? Can a school be completely oblivious to a bully culture? Do schools still celebrate the athletes with hidden curricular messages of winners and losers ? Are there schools with the courage to hold up a mirror and truly see what they are? And if our schools aren’t brave enough, which one of us will make sure to hold that mirror for our children’s sake?

7. Parents. OMG parents. This aspect of the show was the most painful for me, because despite believing that I am a fairly good parent, I have been guilty of seeing through my children. Always loving them but being preoccupied with life and inattentive to their needs. It’s haunting me, and hard for me to write this next sentence, but could Hannah have been my child?

8. Peer pressure is intense and dangerous. The scene in which a ring of students watch and cheer on two brawling students felt contrived and yet totally possible. But how could that be possible? One boy almost killed the other boy while the voyeurs were cheering, taking videos, and egging them on. I don’t want to believe we live in a world like that. But maybe that’s why the producers included it…to end adult naivete.

9. Did the mental health counselor blame the victims? Do we blame victims? How can we ever blame the victims? Just like teaching, mental health professionals require extensive training. Being a good listener does not suffice, and poorly trained counselors are dangerous. Do our schools understand the critical importance of superior mental health care in schools? It’s a matter of life and death.

10. So many of the characters were suffering from their own family or personal issues. And yet, no one knew. Do teachers understand that they are on the front lines, and often spend more time with our children than we do? How many teachers scan the faces in their classrooms and wonder what life outside of school is like for that student? Do teachers seek to know the full child? How many children are suffering silently?

11. How do schools manage tragedy? How do they balance protecting themselves and taking care of their students?

12. How many parents knew their children were watching this show? How many parents knew about the mature and upsetting content? What other content are our children watching that we might not know about? What kind of impact will seeing the horrible rape scene and suicide scene have on all of the young viewers? Will they ever be able to un-see those images? And now that we know, what is our plan? What do we do to help our children understand and process the show’s complicated themes?

13. And finally, why is this show so popular with our children? What does it mean for us, for them, and for our future?

My plea to my fellow grown ups: This show does not reflect well on us. We can brush it off and dismiss the charges as false and a mischaracterization of reality or we can stare down the truth and see the show as a harsh indictment of our neglect, and a magnifying glass held to our failures. I know many of you are actually trying, doing good things, and are not accurately reflected in this series. But too many of us are. And it’s time we came up with our own 13 Reasons Why we need to do better.


challenge yourself

Seek to make lifestyle changes that will last. Self-improvement and continuous growth should be something we strive for all year long and not just at the beginning of the year. With the new year, comes unique opportunities and challenges aimed at personal growth and improvement. Try one of the following five challenges to have your best year yet!

Further Your Education

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to invest in yourself and education is a great way to do that. Education is an extremely powerful tool which provides limitless opportunities. Work to get your GED or Bachelor’s degree. Or take a few continuing education classes and obtain a certification related to your field. Not only will you achieve one of your own personal goals but you will make yourself much more marketable in the workplace by learning new skills.

With the introduction of personal computers and mobile technology, education is now easier than ever to obtain. Not to mention that there are also many free and low cost options for those on a tight budget. Challenge yourself to take the next step in your educational goals; register for a class or research your options. Get started today!

Run A Marathon

Running a marathon is probably one of the hardest physical endeavors you could ever attempt. It takes strength, stamina, and perseverance. However, maintaining the dedication and discipline necessary to train for a marathon may be just as hard. Sometimes it can be just as difficult making it to race day as it is making it to the finish line. A marathoner is required to not only create an effective training plan for their race but they must also be concerned about things such as nutrition and injury prevention. If a marathon seems out of reach for you, try starting with a 5K or 10K race. Enter a few of those until you begin to feel comfortable as a runner. So get your running shoes on, get out, and start logging some miles!

Improve Your Health

So you may not be ready to run a marathon but who wouldn’t want to be healthier and feel better about themselves? Just about everyone in the world has at least one thing that they can change to improve their health. Some of them may be simple such as cutting back on sugar whereas others may require more of a commitment like giving up smoking. Taking steps to improve your health is probably the single best way to challenge yourself in the new year and for a great reason. Aside from the fantastic physical benefits that improving your health will provide such as lower blood pressure, weight loss, and better muscle tone; there are phenomenal mental benefits as well, including lower stress and increased self-confidence to name a few. Help meet your goals by joining a local gym. Whatever you decide, be sure to commit to the change. It just may be the best thing you have ever done for yourself.

Learn A New Skill

Learning a new skill is a wonderful way to challenge yourself. Practical skills such as sewing, carpentry, and cooking are great to add to your repertoire. Not only can these skills provide a potential source of income for you during difficult times but they can also improve your own quality of life.

Face A Fear

Fear can be a difficult emotion to process. It can cause us to feel panic and think irrationally. But learning to master those emotions is an extremely powerful feeling. What is it that scares you the most? Are you afraid of rollercoasters? Are you afraid of flying? Whatever it is, face it head on. You may not be able to meet this challenge immediately but steadily work towards it. For example, if your fear is of roller coasters you may not want to go and jump on a roller coaster immediately (unless you are feeling extra brave). Instead start by researching roller coasters and learning about them.

Tackling any of these challenges in the coming year will surely put you on the right path for personal growth. Don’t set a resolution, set the life you want and follow your passion!


setbacks and stress

Ever have one of those times when it seems as if life is going great? Work is going well, you’re happy, the family is happy, and you’re feeling great. Then BAM! It hits. Like a brick. Something happens and you experience setbacks in life. Setbacks can be emotionally and physically draining not to mention significantly affect your finances as well. It could be something like the loss of a loved one, a financial or health crisis, the breakup of a relationship, or even a failing business. They often leave us feeling sad and lost and not sure where to turn next. Fortunately there are ways to lessen the hurt and still come out on top…

Time – Be sure to give yourself some time to be upset, angry, or hurt. Suppressing your emotions will only work against you. Remember the expression “misery loves company”? Take the time you need to grieve properly (this will be different for everyone) but don’t dwell in those feelings to the point where it begins to affect your life in a negative way. Many times these situations are beyond our control. For example, if you apply for a job that you are really hoping to get only to find out it was offered to someone else. Try to find ways to focus your energy in a productive manner.

Be Honest – Honesty is the best policy especially with yourself and with others. If your setback is due to a mistake you made, be honest about it. Own up to your actions and figure out a way to move forward.

Forgive – If your setback is due to an issue that someone else caused, do whatever you can to try and forgive them. Forgiveness does not mean that you agree with their words or actions but rather that you want to focus on removing the negative from your life. The truth is, forgiveness is more for you than for anyone or anything that may have offended or hurt you. Releasing the feelings of hate can be very liberating for you and it may even go a long way towards repairing a damaged relationship.

Focus on Solutions – For every problem, there is a solution. That solution may not be apparent to you immediately but it will come to you. Spend more of your time thinking of solutions and creating a plan of action rather than rehashing your problems over and over. This skill is sometimes easier said than done especially when our problems seem so overwhelming. Be sure to write down your plan and review it regularly. This will help keep you accountable to yourself as you are working through any issues. The best thing about mistakes is that they always provide opportunities for growth and learning. So take advantage of it. Use this experience as a platform to educate yourself.

Seek Advice – If you are in a situation and simply don’t know what to do it is often wise to seek advice from someone you trust. This person can be a friend, co-worker, family member, or mentor, as long as they are someone you can be open and honest with regarding your situation. Seeking advice actually serves two purposes. The obvious, being that you will get a new perspective on your situation and they may even be able to help you develop a plan on how to move forward. In addition, the act of talking to someone we trust can serve as a sort of therapy for us, helping to work through the problem in our own minds.

Stress Relief – Seek out healthy ways to reduce your stress. Hit the gym or visit a spa for some extra pampering. Going for a walk, meditating, and reading are other great ways to destress. Whatever you do be sure it is an activity that will make you feel better and will not cause an unnecessary burden. Even something as simple as taking a deep breath and counting slowly to 10 can calm the mind and lower blood pressure.

No one is immune from conflict in life. No one. Everyone has experienced problems and disappointments. However, your reaction to these setbacks is likely to determine the outcome. How will you respond?



For many of us, slowing down doesn’t seem to be a possibility. Between work obligations and family and managing a household, there’s rarely time for much else other than stress. However, constantly leading a fast paced life can leave you feeling burnt out and under a ton of stress.

I’ll give you a great example. Sometime last week, I was reviewing my work hours for the past month and I realized that I had not had a day “off” in over 42 days. 42 days!! Now, being a stay at home mom and business owner, I rarely get a day off but it dawned on me that I had not provided myself any downtime to recharge my batteries. And coincidentally, I was feeling more stressed and anxious than I had been in a very long time.

If you can relate to this story, just know that you are not alone. In fact, finding some downtime and taking care of ourselves is a challenge that many people face on a daily basis. And while it is necessary to meet our obligations, it is also necessary to take care of ourselves. When we aren’t stressed and overly tired, we are able to be more present in our own lives and fully enjoy the time that we spend with our families and on our work and our passions. But if you’re used to a constant fast paced environment, it can be hard to slow down. The trick is not to come to a halt, but instead to find small opportunities to recharge every day. Not sure where to start? Try a few of these suggestions to help you slow down.


Meditation and deep breathing techniques have been known for centuries to decrease stress and tension-related pain, such as, tension headaches, ulcers, muscle and joint problems. Ancient practitioners of meditation (and some current) believed that meditation was a sort of gateway to the gods. And while that may or may not be true, it certainly has a tremendous amount of proven benefits. Aside from stress relief, meditation also improves blood circulation, significantly increases serotonin production in the brain (serotonin is a chemical that is responsible for elevating mood and improving behavior), regulates heart rate, and boosts the immune system. The longer the better, but even short 5 to 10 minute sessions can make a big difference.

Family Time

After a hard day, there’s nothing better than coming home to loving and supportive family and friends. If you are feeling overworked and overly tired, sometimes the very best medicine is quality time with those you love. In order for a relationship to thrive, it must be nurtured. So if you are feeling a little disconnected, make time to spend with those people. Take a friend to lunch or take the kids somewhere fun such as roller skating or to the movies. Spending time with good company is sure to help you relax and reconnect.

Listen to Music

Did you know that listening to music is the only activity that is known to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain? Listening to music is a great way encourage things like creativity, good judgement, effective decision making, and problem solving skills. Not to mention that listening to music is a great way to boost your mood and relieve stress.

Write it Down

Did you remember to drop off your daughter’s violin to school? Did you email the presentation to your boss? Pick up the dry cleaning? Believe it or not, the simple act of writing things down can make a huge difference in your level of stress and anxiety. Keep a small notebook handy or use an app like OneNote or Evernote to record important reminders, notes, to do’s, and anything else that might clutter up your mind. In fact, writing a list of priorities for the next day before you go to bed, is one of the best (and easiest) ways to fight mild insomnia. You might also find that your productivity increases as well.

Say NO

For those of us people pleasers, this is a hard one. But understand that in order to slow down and reduce your stress, you may need to say “no” to certain requests that are made of you. Overextending your time is generally a one-way ticket to stress and anxiety. Cut back on your commitments whenever possible to allow yourself the time to regroup.

Get Outside

There is nothing more peaceful than a walk or hike in nature. This is when you literally can stop and smell the roses. Even a 10 minute walk outside in the sun can boost creativity and brighten your mood. Take advantage of opportunities to get outside throughout the day. Eat lunch or dinner outside or walk to the post office instead of drive.


Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body. There are many positive physical and mental effects associated with moving your body on a daily basis. As we age, it becomes more common to develop chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. However, many of these conditions can be alleviated or even prevented with regular exercise (and a proper diet). And just like meditation exercise boosts our serotonin levels which is why we often feel peaceful and happy after a workout. Take a hike at a nearby park such as Soldier’s Delight in Owings Mills or participate in a baseball or soccer game at a local rec center.

In the everyday hustle and bustle we often forget to enjoy all that life has to offer. Take care of yourself and everything else will fall in place.