By Joshua E. Stern
I’ve been working on compiling a guide to conflict resolution in divorce and family law cases and I came across the Wholistic Stress Control Institute’s “10 Strategies For Conflict Resolution.” I must admit, I had never head of the organization prior to finding this list. In fact, I may not have found the list if it weren’t distributed by the Kansas Department of Health. I’ve read over it a few times and I think it would benefit everyone to give it least a cursory read.
Ten Strategies for Conflict Resolution
• When angry, separate yourself from the situation and take time to cool out.
• Attack the problem, not the person. Start with a compliment.
• Communicate your feelings assertively, NOT aggressively. Express them without
• Focus on the issue, NOT your position about the issue.
• Accept and respect that individual opinions may differ, don’t try to force compliance,
work to develop common agreement.
• Do not review the situation as a competition, where one has to win and one has to
lose. Work toward a solution where both parties can have some of their needs met.
• Focus on areas of common interest and agreement, instead of areas of
disagreement and opposition.
• NEVER jump to conclusions or make assumptions about what another is feeling or
• Listen without interrupting; ask for feedback if needed to assure a clear
understanding of the issue.
• Remember, when only one person’s needs are satisfied in a conflict, it is NOT
resolved and will continue.
• Forget the past and stay in the present.
• Build ‘power with’ NOT ‘power over’ others.
• Thank the person for listening.
The legal process is great at deciding family law issues, but it’s not great at reducing or eliminating family tensions. Ultimately, if the parties to a case are going to have a relationship, the burden is on them to establish it. Their attorneys should facilitate that relationship and certainly not do anything to unnecessarily damage it, but at the end of the day, it’s the parties who must decide how they will interact. Hopefully the resolution of any outstanding legal issue will clear the air between the parties, or at least reset the conversation.