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How to Build Conflict Resolution Skills: Case Studies and Examples

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No one likes conflict. When you disagree with a coworker, it can be awkward at best and lead to job dissatisfaction and even a threat to your position at worst. Conflict resolution skills are crucial to positive work relationships, success, and growth at work. 

But what exactly are conflict resolution skills? How can you cultivate them, even without work experience? We’ll discuss everything you need to know about conflict resolution, why it’s essential, and how to build these critical soft skills — without stepping foot into an office.

What Is Conflict Resolution?

Conflict resolution is the ability to end a dispute respectfully in a way that benefits all parties. More simply, it’s the ability to end a disagreement, argument, or even a fight politely and successfully.

In our everyday lives, this can range from something as simple as disagreeing with your friend on what to cook for dinner to something larger like addressing your friend’s feelings when they’re feeling left out of your friend group. In the workplace, conflict ranges from small to big, too; you might disagree with a coworker about how to phrase an email your company is sending, or you might have a more significant conflict about how they acted while working with you on a project. 

Why Are Conflict Resolution Skills Important?

Regardless of the situation, conflict resolution skills can help you work through challenges with others to get your work done more efficiently and stress-free. Conflict resolution skills can lead to: 

  • Better working relationships: Working with someone you find difficult is no fun. Conflict resolution skills can help you iron out issues so you can work together harmoniously.
  • Getting work done more efficiently: When you can resolve conflict with others, work, especially collaborative projects, becomes much more manageable. You don’t need a coworker to be yet another blocker to hitting your team’s goals; instead, work becomes easier when you can collaborate and work together, not against each other.
  • Happier work environment: It’s unpleasant to show up to work (in-person or virtually) when you have a conflict with someone. Addressing issues head-on can clear the air and make your work experience more enjoyable.
  • Career growth: Conflict resolution skills are valuable soft skills. Being an effective mediator can help you become a more successful and personable employee, someone everyone wants to work with and have on their team.
Guide to Bloomberg Internships

Client Service

Practice de-escalating conflict as a customer service specialist. Record a call between you and your client and suggest a suitable path forward.

Avg. Time: 3-4 hours

Skills you’ll build: Triage, problem-solving, de-escalation, customer retention, composure

Conflict Resolution Skills Examples

Conflict resolution requires various skills to effectively listen to others, empathize with them, and work together toward a solution. 

Active Listening

Active listening is when you’re not only listening to someone but actively engaging with and processing what they’re saying. It might look like engaged body language (like nodding and eye contact) or asking follow-up questions to clarify or further explore what the other person was saying.

Active listening is vital to conflict resolution. It allows you to truly understand and process what the other person in the conflict is going through. Listening to their perspective and taking it seriously can help you know where they’re coming from and find a solution that considers their feelings, perspectives, and goals. 


Resolving a conflict often means you’ll need to use negotiation skills to get the outcome you’re looking for. The goal is to find a solution that works for both or all parties, which means asking for what you want while trying to find a middle ground. 


Many of us may shy away from conflict because it requires asserting ourselves in sometimes awkward or difficult situations. This is where leadership skills come in. The decision to resolve a conflict requires one person to step up to address the problem — taking ownership, considering multiple perspectives, and developing an action plan. 


Conflict resolution ends with a decision that benefits all parties. Good decision-making skills can help you assess the facts of the situation and come to a rational conclusion. These skills also come in handy when a conflict seems to drag on forever; people who are good decision-makers are biased toward action and focus on finding a solution rather than continuing to fight.


Unfortunately, even if you’re in a dispute with a person you really can’t stand, you’ll need to communicate with them to resolve a conflict. Using communication skills to speak or write confidently, clearly, and with empathy can help you find an agreeable solution more efficiently. 

>>MORE: What Are Verbal Communication Skills?

working at Accenture

Strategy Consulting

Build your email communication skills as you draft an email containing difficult messages about a sensitive subject.

Avg. Time: 7-8 hours

Skills you’ll build: Attention to detail, error spotting, email communication, client communication


When you’re in a conflict, it can feel like you’re going head-to-head with someone else; however, you must work together to resolve that conflict. Collaboration skills ensure you consider the other person’s perspective, communicate the right information, and work together to determine the best solution.

Conflict Resolution Skills at Work: Case Studies

Now you know what conflict resolution skills are, but how are they actually applied at work?

Connecting on the Outcome

Peter Premenko, founder and president of Phronesis Group, a boutique consultancy focusing on leadership, management, and team culture development, shared a time he wanted to change a company process—but not everyone was on board.

“My team needed to change the way we executed new employee onboarding,” Premenko says. “Our director of recruiting was dead set against the change because our existing program was world-class, and his team relied on it as part of the pitch to come work for our company. My approach with him was to take things up a level to something we did agree on: having the best people doing their best work for our company. This way we were solving a problem we both cared about together, instead of trying to defend my priority and defeat his. It took a little longer than I might have liked, but he eventually saw why the change I wanted to make was important and agreed to it.”

Connecting on why Premenko wanted to make the change allowed the director of recruiting to understand his motivation and realize they shared the same goal. 

Leading With Kindness

Stefan Chekanov, co-founder and CEO of Brosix, a secure instant messenger, shared a stressful moment when his team had been working hard to release new software features, include an AI integration, and redesign the company website. 

“This churn caused a bit of extra tension to start brewing internally, and unproductive, heated discussions rarely lead to anything more than mutual frustration,” Chekanov says.

To resolve the conflict, Chekanov decided to lead with kindness. 

“Whenever I noticed a team member (including myself) becoming increasingly agitated, I set up a private meeting for a genuine heart-to-heart,” he said. “At the end of the day, leading with empathy is how I gently nudge communication in a more constructive, positive direction. You don’t need work experience to be a decent human being, to put it simply.”

Providing Context

I had a conflict with a manager about an article I was working on about the “girlboss.” The main point of my article was that “girlboss” isn’t something to strive to be, but my manager disagreed and asked me to rewrite the piece. She took offense, thinking I wasn’t advocating for women’s advancement in the workplace; I took offense because she thought those were my views!

To resolve the conflict, I realized a vital piece of context was missing. As a Gen Zer, “girlboss” is a term my friends and I use sarcastically and jokingly; however, when the term first came into the cultural context, it was considered empowering. 

>>MORE: Bye-Bye, ‘Bandwidth’ — 50 Examples of Gen Z Jargon at Work

I did more research to show my manager how the conversation around the term had changed and brought concrete examples of how people were using the term now. After providing that context, we were able to edit the piece to add that research and nuance. It led to one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written — one that was much better than the first draft I’d handed in.

Listening to Everyone’s Ideas

Kimberly Best’s work directly involves conflict resolution; she’s a civil mediator, trained family mediator, certified arbitrator, and owner of Best Conflict Solutions. She worked closely with a health care system with 17 medical offices struggling with employees leaving — the system had an attrition rate of 33%.

With such a company-wide issue, Best sought to understand what leaders and employees had to say. 

“First, I spoke with managers to hear what they experienced and what they proposed as resolutions,” she said. “I then formulated a statistically valid and reliable survey. I included a Likert scale and open-ended questions to get a full picture of management and team experience. Then I met with individuals and heard their stories and ideas. I asked teams to propose their needs and provide solutions.”

After listening to various people, Best used the data to meet with management and brainstorm what they could do differently. 

“Ironically, one primary need was for conflict management training and an effective conflict management system,” she said. “I provided conflict management training to teams and managers.”

After Best both provided training and helped create a system for conflict management processes, attrition at the health care system was 18% the following year.

How to Build Conflict Resolution Skills

Soft skills can feel more challenging to build because they’re less tangible than hard skills. For example, it may seem easier to approach learning programming skills, where you can take a coding bootcamp, than to learn how to collaborate better. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn soft skills — or that you need to be in the workplace to learn them! Here’s what conflict resolution experts recommend if you’re looking to build these soft skills before landing your first role.


“Participate in role-playing exercises or simulations that mimic workplace conflicts,” says Beth Fries, an organizational leadership professional and doctoral candidate researching readiness skills in diverse corporate sectors. “This can be done in a classroom setting, with friends or mentors, or through online platforms.”

Forage job simulations can help you practice conflict resolution skills without needing a friend or even leaving your home. 

Getting Ready to Join the Workforce

Practice using mediation skills to resolve an internal conflict on your team.

Avg. Time: 4-5 hours

Skills you’ll build: Emotional intelligence, prioritization, time management, self-reflection

Get Feedback

Fortunately (and unfortunately), conflict is often a part of our everyday lives, even if we might not realize it. The next time you argue with a friend or disagree with a family member, take a step back and reflect on how you approached the situation.

“Ask friends, family, or mentors for feedback on handling conflicts in everyday situations,” Fries says. “Use their input to improve your approach.”

Practice the Process

Kristyn Carmichael, professional mediator, family attorney, and certified divorce financial analyst, shares a three-step process for resolving conflict: listen, respond, resolve.


First, use active listening skills as the other person shares their perspective. Carmichael notes it’s essential to identify the “underlying issues rather than positions.”

A position is someone’s feelings about a situation, like “I don’t like working in a group with you.” 

“An interest is the underlying why: the person fears you will overshadow their work or get credit; they’re nervous you won’t put in work due to past experience; they don’t like you because you stole their lunch once (even on accident),” Carmichael says. “We all have underlying interests for what we want. It is important to be an active listener and ask questions, not become defensive or shut the other person down by shifting the conversation to yourself.”


Next, it’s time to respond by addressing the issues the person raised and acknowledging their feelings, even if you disagree with them. 

Using the same scenario of someone not wanting to work in a group with you, Carmichael offers an example response:

“Thank you for sharing with me that you don’t want to be on this project with me because you have heard negative things about my work ethic from others who have worked with me and you don’t think we will get along. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and understand why you may be nervous to work with me.” 


Ultimately, your goal is to find a resolution that benefits everyone. Carmichael recommends brainstorming solutions that work for both parties. Once you’ve decided on one, ensure you have a plan to implement and follow through on the resolution.

Conflict Resolution Skills: The Bottom Line

Conflict can be scary, and you might try to avoid it. Yet good conflict resolution skills can not only improve your working relationships, but can also lead to career growth and a happier work environment.

“Conflict is not bad; it’s a sign of a problem to solve,” Best says. “The most important thing in conflict resolution is building trust. This is done by listening well, empathy through genuine caring, and providing an environment that is safe to be honest. Safety is achieved through the above and through confidentiality and an environment without blame or judgment. When people feel heard, understood, and validated — the world makes sense through their eyes, and you demonstrate that you can see that — then creativity and problem-solving begin.”

Image credit: Canva

Zoe Kaplan is a Senior Writer at Forage. Prior to joining Forage, she wrote and edited career and workplace content for Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women.

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