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Is Conflict Resolution about Mindset or Skillset?

Mindset and skillset are often brought to light when discussing effective leadership.  Mindset refers to the ideas, belief and attitudes we have whereas skillset refers to our capabilities based on our knowledge and experience. Our shifting world often requires new mindsets, new ways of seeing and new ways of being.  Outdated mindsets can be the biggest inhibitors of future success.

This made me think about what mindset might be required for successful conflict resolution. It came to light for me because many of my coaching clients have a strong conflict resolution skillset, but because of past negative experiences trust with others can be low.  This has an impact on building working relationships and resolving future conflict, but how much of an impact?

I developed the list below as a starting point for building on a conflict resolution mindset and skillset.  I’ve also added a toolset based on a mediator’s toolbox.  I would appreciate your input into what might be missing or what might not be a good fit in each of the following categories.


Curious – gravitate toward being curious about how others are thinking and reacting in the situation.

Empathetic – desire to put yourself in another’s situation or accurately reflect their narrative.

Vulnerable/Open/Transparent – willingness to share your intentions with others and be open with your emotions

Trusting – willingness to trust that others are doing the best they can and that their intentions are good

Embrace Conflict –  A tendency to step into difficult conversations when needed and not shy away from them

Learning – Desire to seek learning that comes from conflict situations

Collaborative– tendency to gravitate to seeking a solution that meets all parties needs


Listening – ability to actively listen; to fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker.

Patience – ability to take the time to deeply understand the situation and resolve issues

Self Awareness – the ability to be aware of your actions and emotions and how they impact others

Communication – the ability to be assertive or inquiring as the situation requires.

Analytical/Problem Solve – ability to map the conflict and find solutions to match needs.

Managing Emotions – ability to express fear, anger, hurt and frustration wisely to effect change.



Open Questions – ask questions to explore the situation and build understanding.  Open questions begin with who, what, where, how or why (sometimes) and are focused on beliefs, concerns, hopes, expectations, assumptions and values.

Empathize – Validate/Acknowledge Emotions – reflect and validate the emotions that are coming at you. An example of validation would be to say, “It makes sense that you feel this way. Looking at it from your perspective, I would probably feel the same way.” Acknowledging emotions is also important. It could sound like: “You sound very frustrated with this situation” or “I would imagine you might also be feeling ….”

Body Language – ensure that your body language is open and non-threatening and your tone of voice is calm, slow and kind.

“I” Statements – use ‘I’ statement for effective direct communication, to let others know what you are noticing and how it impacts you. Focus on behaviors and not on your interpretations.  Take responsibility for your own feelings and be clear about what you want in the situation.

Paraphrase/Summarize – capture what you are hearing by echoing concerns and ideas.  Demonstrates interest in and respect for the speaker’s point of view.  Check for understanding & interpretation of meaning.

Reframe – Shift the frame of reference to one of hope and possibility for resolution. Remain positive. Capture what you believe people want vs what you hear they don’t want.

Perhaps resolving conflict effectively is coming with a mindset to maximize a skill set and utilize a toolset.

Mindset – broaden it               Skillset – deepen it               Toolset – sharpen it



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