Conflict resolution is an essential skill for every nurse. Conflict in the workplace may be unavoidable, but it can be minimized and resolved. Learning to resolve your conflict effectively and early—in a way that does not increase your stress level—is important.

Nurses can experience different types of conflicts including personal, interpersonal, and interdepartmental conflicts. Any conflict can interfere with workflow and harmony. Conflicts can also decrease productivity and damage self-esteem. However, not all conflicts are bad; occasionally a conflict can be good for change in the workplace.

Here are some tips to improve your conflict resolution skills.

1. Practice active listening and communication skills.

Practice listening to what the other person has to say, without interrupting. Make sure you understand what the other person is telling you. Communication provides an opportunity to share thoughts and problems as well as the reason why they are having conflicts. Face-to-face communication is more effective than other forms because it allows for an active exchange of information. It also allows you to observe important nonverbal cues from the other party. It is important that you use open-ended questions to make sure each side understands what the other person thinks and how he/she feels. This invites people to delve deeper into the problem and find the root cause for the conflict.

2. Stay calm and recognize the conflict.

Being calm and aware of your emotions are vital aspects of conflict resolution. Recognizing the legitimacy of conflicting needs and analyzing them in an environment of compassionate understanding will lead to successful problem solving. Use critical thinking skills to analyze the problem and plan your strategy, including what you want to say, and then write it down and rehearse it. Create a note card, if necessary, with your main talking points.

3. Maintain a positive attitude and practice managing your emotions.

A positive attitude is what you need to solve half of the problem. Emotions play a greater part in most decisions so recognizing and understanding your emotion will help you control your emotional response.

“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right waythat is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” — Aristotle

Nuananong Seal, PhD, RN

Nuananong Seal, PhD, RN, is an experienced researcher in health promotion and project director of a non-profit health and wellness program.

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