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Dr. Trevor 8 min read

Conflict Resolution: Better Strategies for Better Results

Research reveals that relationship quality is more about how we deal with conflict than what we actually fight about.

We all experience conflict at some point in our key relationships. When in a relationship with someone long enough, we begin to recognize patterns in our disagreements. We often argue about the same issues repeatedly and then employ the same strategies for resolution over and over, expecting different results, and often disappointed with the outcomes. This cycle of unresolved conflict can leave us feeling frustrated. What if you could end this pattern? What if you could change the outcomes? Considering the research, if “relationship quality is more about how we deal with conflict than what we actually fight about,” then we can infer that employing improved conflict resolution skills can result in increased relationship quality.

Before providing strategies for conflict resolution, it is important to understand a foundational principle about relational conflict. Conflict is not inherently bad! When handled healthily, conflict can strengthen a bond or deepen a relationship. When approached with humility and curiosity, conflict provides the opportunity for us to take inventory of our unique position, preferences, and perspectives. Conflict can also help us gain insight into the heart and mind of the acquaintance, friend, partner, or family member that we conflict with. Consider asking questions such as, “What am I learning about myself because of this conflict? What am I missing or not seeing about myself, the other person, or the context that surrounds the conflict? What am I learning about the other person that helps me better understand them, appreciate them, or increase empathy for them?”

Unfortunately, there is not a “one-size-fits-all” tactic for conflict resolution. Rather, there are multiple strategies to consider when navigating a variety of factors that contribute to a given conflict. 

Consider the following 5 strategies when working to resolve conflict.

1. Evasion
2. Accommodation
3. Competition
4. Negotiation
5. Collaboration

The provided strategies are ordered by the increasing amount of participation required by both parties to resolve the conflict.

STRATEGY 1: Evasion (Opt-Out)

Strength: Not every conflict is worth your time, energy, and effort. Some conflicts can be avoided by simply opting out or choosing to not engage. This strategy leverages the optimistic view that some conflicts can work themselves out over time.

Challenge: Known as “conflict avoidance,” this strategy becomes detrimental when applying it frequently in your key relationships. This tactic is often used when we are afraid to address conflict, engage the people we conflict with, or face the pending consequences of a conflict. Evasion often decreases the immediate impacts of a conflict by pushing it below a relational surface but escalates the complexity and intensity of this conflict when it resurfaces.

Example: A couple disagrees on where they want to vacation this summer.
Evasion response: “I don’t care, whatever, why don’t you just figure it out for us.”

STRATEGY 2: Accommodation (Choose to Lose)

Strength: You don’t need to win every conflict every time. There are times in conflict when you may not feel the need to get what you want in recognition that it’s just not that important to you. The strategy of accommodation acknowledges that you may not hold a strong position or that the person that you are misaligned with may hold a stronger position. As a strength, this strategy can be seen as putting someone else’s desires before your own by choosing their position or preference over yours.

Challenge: Although often seen as a positive, others-focused strategy, frequently choosing the strategy of accommodation can diminish your ability to share your opinions, communicate your desires, or assert your will. When you have a strong conviction about your position, accommodating others to minimize conflict can create resentment in your relationship.

Example: A couple disagrees on where they want to vacation this summer.
Accommodation response: “Even though I’d prefer to go to the beach for vacation this summer, I know you love going to the mountains. I don’t really care where we go as long as we’re together, so let’s plan a trip to Denver.”


STRATEGY 3: Competition (Fight to Win)

Strength: Sometimes you need to fight for what you want. When you hold a deep conviction or have a strong opinion that conflicts with someone else, there are times that you may need to stand up for yourself, speak your mind, or battle it out in hopes that you will win. The strategy of competition affirms personal assertiveness and self-advocacy.

Challenge: If the goal of competition is to be the winner, that means there will likely be a loser. Doing "whatever it takes" to win frequently leaves both parties feeling like they have lost. Even when declaring ourselves the winner of a conflict, we often regret the things we said or did to win the battle. This can create guilt for the winner and bitterness for the loser.

Example: A couple disagrees on where they want to vacation this summer.
Competition response: “We go to the mountains every summer. This year, I really want to go to the beach. I’ve already made reservations and booked our tickets to Miami. We’re going to the beach!”

STRATEGY 4: Negotiation (Win Some, Lose Some)

Strength: Getting a little and giving a little may be your best path forward. Rather than choosing to lose or fighting to win, the strategy of negotiation employs compromise as a suitable solution for resolving conflict. This is the first of two strategies that encourages agreement from both parties to work together. When resolving conflict, negotiation can help both parties feel valued and validated through a counterbalanced outcome in which neither party is named the winner or loser.

Challenge: For this strategy to work, it requires two key factors; (1) a willingness to agree with the other person to mutually choose negotiation as your strategy for resolution, and (2) a readiness to give up a portion of what you want in order to get a portion of what you want. Although an effective strategy for conflict resolution, negotiation can leave both parties feeling as though neither party won.

Example: A couple disagrees on where they want to vacation this summer.
Negotiation response: I know you like going to the mountains every summer, and I want to go to the beach this summer. How about we compromise by going to one place this summer and the alternative next summer?”

STRATEGY 5: Collaboration (A “Win-Win” Solution)

Strength: Not every effort to resolve conflict must end with a loser. There may be times when you are able to form a partnership with the conflicting party to focus on problem-solving as a tactical effort to resolve your conflict. The strategy of collaboration seeks to find a solution where both parties get what they want or feel like they’ve won. This approach can lead to increased trust and respect between parties and an expanded relational alliance for the future.

Challenge: Like negotiation, collaboration requires consensus between parties to employ the same strategy to resolve their conflict. When there is an increase in relational tension, there is often a decrease in willingness to work together, making this strategy difficult to implement. It is also important to note that there may be occasions when a “win-win” solution is just not possible.

Example: A couple disagrees on where they want to vacation this summer.
Collaboration response: “I know you want to go to the mountains, and I want to go to the beach this summer. How about we find a vacation spot that has both? What do you think about going to San Diego?”


REFLECT: Take a moment to reflect on each of these resolution tactics by responding to the following questions:
1. Which of these strategies is my “go-to” option? In other words, which strategy do I employ most often?

2. Which strategy do I use least frequently? What about this strategy makes it less appealing to me than the others?

3. Which strategy might be the best fit for my current conflict? How might I use this strategy to see better results?

4. How can I use the insights from this article to determine viable resolution strategies for future conflicts?

ACT: Consider a conflict that you are currently experiencing with someone else. Choose one of the strategies to employ. If choosing evasion or accommodation as your intended strategy, you can proceed without consent or agreement from the other person. If choosing competition as your intended strategy, consider the other person’s likelyness to participate in the competition and define any ground rules for a “fair fight” as you proceed. If choosing negotiation or collaboration as your intended strategy, be sure to express your intent to the other person and invite them into a problem-solving partnership before you proceed.


If you’re struggling through a difficult situation, finding yourself in a challenging season, or feeling frustrated in a conflicted relationship, consider seeing a therapist who can help you process how you feel, identify what you need, and establish tangible goals for your growth. Our team at LiveWell Behavioral Health is ready to respond to your needs and provide you with meaningful and effective care. Give us a call at (321) 259-1662 or find us online at We’re here to help you get healthy, stay healthy, and live well!


Peace be with you,

Dr. Trevor