A Student Leader’s Guide to Disagreements and Conflict Resolution

Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike
A Student Leader’s Guide to Disagreements and Conflict Resolution

Every Leader gets into disagreements...

In fact, it’s a pre-requisite for the job! Imagine if you never had any disagreements - that would mean that what you want to do is the same as what everyone else wants to do. Well, in that case, you’re not much of a leader, are you? You’re merely going along with the crowd.

Despite knowing this, many leaders (your author included!) struggle with handling disagreements within a team. While there isn’t one guaranteed method of success, there are a few general principles that may help you. This is all part of the Leadership Theory.

A few of the more helpful methods are:

  • Perspective Taking
  • Creating Solutions
  • Expressing Emotions
  • Reaching Out
  • Reflective Thinking.

Here’s how each of those methods can help resolve conflicts:

Perspective Taking

Take the time to understand the other person’s point of view. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see the conflict from their side.

How exactly do we do this?  Ask questions - specifically questions that are open-ended and non-accusatory.  Using words like “why” and “how” can also help. Repeating ideas of your teammate back to them to ensure you understand their opinions correctly is also a big help!

Creating Solutions

Once you understand both perspectives, begin to brainstorm potential solutions. This takes compromise and creativity, as both sides of the disagreement will have to be addressed.

How exactly do we do this?  Come up with a list of ideas that could possibly satisfy both sides. Ask the other person to come up with a few of their own ideas. Then, work together to decide which one works best.

Reaching Out

It’s important to be open to advice or guidance from others.  Taking a proactive step to initiate or start the communication when two parties aren’t seeing eye-to-eye will nearly always be appreciated by the other person. This is especially true if you are in a more ‘senior’ role to the other person.

What does this look like?  Show that you care and are willing to listen. Let the other person know that you value their opinion and feelings on the issue. A quick email, message, or voice note letting the other person know you want to meet and speak is all it takes. We’d also suggest openly acknowledging what you can do to improve your working relationship before asking the other person for suggestions. Lead by example and demonstrate you are willing to make changes to work with them.

Expressing Emotions

In order to effectively resolve a conflict, it’s important to be honest with how you feel. Expressing feelings can help give other people’s opinions  more weight, as well as allow for better communication between all parties.

What does this sound like?  Start by using “I” statements to express how you feel. As an example, if someone else’s idea isn’t going over well, you could say “I feel frustrated because I didn’t consider that idea when making plans."

Reflective Thinking

Finally, it’s important to take a few minutes to sit back and think about the whole situation. This will help you come to a better understanding of the conflict, as well as make more informed decisions.

How can we engage in Reflective Thinking? After a disagreement or conflict, take some quiet time alone and ask yourself questions like “What role did I play in creating this conflict?” and “What could I have done differently?” By doing this, you’ll have a better understanding of why conflicts happen, and what you can do to avoid them in the future

Ultimately, disagreements are a normal part of any leadership experience. However, they don’t have to be negative or emotionally charged. By practicing the methods above, you can grow more confident over time in your own ability to address and ultimately solve these conflicts. That will in turn create a positive feedback loop and you’ll become increasingly willing to address more of these situations in the future.

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Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike