Most conflicts have two aspects to them that need to be attended to.  There is the person you are dealing with, their relationship with you and the feelings and emotions that are influenced by the relationship.  This is where we often get hooked by falling into the heat of an argument, losing our cool and succumbing to saying something hurtful that we later regret.  Then there is the problem that has created the difference between you that causes the difficult situation.  This is usually something that needs to be clarified, like cleaning the dust off of a treasure map.  There are usually two very different perspectives of what the problem actually is, and this is often where the conflict arises.  So there are the people, and the problem.

One approach to resolving conflicts is to focus on solving the problem rather than the attacking or competing with the person. By coming onside with the other person to solve your mutual problem without them feeling attacked the person can help you to reach a mutual agreement while preserving your relationship with them.

Treat the person with civility and respect and be hard on the problem.  Maintain a positive relationship by focussing on the facts of the situation.  Trying not to get emotionally hooked when your buttons are pushed is much easier if you continually return to focussing on the problem and the facts of the situation rather than expressing frustration, disdain, contempt or overt anger. Focussing on the facts of the situation also makes it easier to  remain calm and to show respectful behaviour under difficult circumstances.  Expect to be under pressure and try to make an extra effort to be courteous, constructively focussing on solving the problem.

By separating the problem from the person, you can debate the real issues  without harming your relationship, wether at work or elsewhere.  In more cases than you might expect,  the other person is not just “being difficult”  to wind you up.  They are being contrary to you because they see the problem differently than you or have different needs than you.  Try to remember t his and try to attribute positive intentions to their actions.  This is a more empowering perspective where you are able to be more resourceful and focus on the problem that needs to be solved rather than making the assumption that they are purposefully being difficult to spite you.

You will benefit most by listening to what the other has to say to determine what they need, want or are most concerned about.  Try to spend 80% of your time listening before advocating your position, desire or concern.  By being attentive , empathizing and acknowledging what the other has to say, they will feel you support them, and they will be more willing to assist you to come to a joint agreement.  You will be in a better position to gain a fuller understanding of the true situation and understand why the other wants what they do.

Focussing on the problem rather than the person helps you to adopt a curious attitude and focus on the facts, and only the facts.  Narrow your gaze in this way and do your best to drop your negative assumptions, judgements and interpretations and stick only to the facts of the situation.  By focussing on the objective facts and gaining a fuller appreciation of the problem, you can then brainstorm options together for jointly solving the problems in new ways.  By not identifying the other person as the problem, and separating the problem as something jointly to solve, you can keep difficult and contentious topics constructive and the relationship respectful while avoiding antagonism that can be destructive to important relationships.