Resolve Conflict with Purpose-Based Problem Solving

Virtual Consultation

An Acuity Tip…

Conflict resolution requires an understanding of why the conflict occurred in the first place. That’s why the key to resolving conflict is applying what is commonly known as interest-based problem-solving. We call this process purpose-based because it respects differing perceptions and acknowledges intrinsic drivers – drivers represent what motivates each person. It’s their WHY. 

There are five steps to this process. The first step is to clarify perceptions in order to discover the root cause of the issue. It helps you understand why the conflict exists in the first place. Use your skill of influential communicationlisten to learn. Find out what’s important to them – their why. Share what’s important to you, too. Identify who is upset and why. What are the catalysts that initiated the conflict in the first place? Then, connect each person’s purpose to the underlying issue. What does each person want as a potential solution? Finally, identify a shared purpose that honours the values of both. 


Here’s a quick framework to follow:

1. Clarify Perceptions

How do I see the problem?

How do you see the problem?

2. Confirm Interests

What’s important to me?

What’s important to you?

3. Identify Conflict Catalysts

What spurred the conflict for me?

What spurred the conflict for you?

4. Determine Purpose

How do my interests connect to the underlying issue?

What do I really want as a potential solution?

How do your interests connect to the underlying issue?

What do each of us really want as a potential solution?

5. Resolve the Conflict

What are our shared interests – what’s important to both of us?

How can we frame this issue in a way that reflects our shared interests?

What are some possible solutions – what are we both willing to commit to?


Remember to be mindful of the impact of your perceptions when in conflict. You only see people’s behaviour, not the reasons behind it. As a result, be aware of potential misperceptions and assumptions based only on the behaviour you see.