Managing Conflict

CRS 009 | Conflict Management Strategies


No matter how much we avoid it, conflict will always find a way into our lives in one way or another. When this happens, we need to be equipped with different conflict management strategies to avoid being caught off guard. In this episode, Carolyn Rivera shares the different strategies that she has applied in her life. Having experienced multiple conflicts throughout her career, she dives deep into the particulars and complications of conflict with real-life scenarios that relate to everyday experiences.

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Managing Conflict

How To Get Through Conflict Without Leaving Scars Along The Way

I am excited but on a personal note, I have to tell you, I mentioned that I was packing boxes and getting ready to move. We all know how horrible that process is. We’ve been trying to get everything packed and the hardest part about this process is knowing what to throw away. Between my husband and myself, we are sentimental and we like to keep things with our memories. The problem is that we have tons of stuff, huge items, small items, and boxes here, boxes there that take up so much space. We never looked at it or use it, and they sit in the garage.

We have been tearing ourselves apart finally throwing things away. I had to take a deep breath because it hurts every single time I did it. It’s funny because if I allowed my sister-in-law to help me, I would absolutely have no memories because she tosses everything. If she doesn’t touch it in three months, six months, it is out. I didn’t invite her to the packing process for fear of what she might make me throw away. I still have the first shoes of all my kids. Aren’t we supposed to save those? What about their baby teeth? I have them. Shouldn’t I save those to show my grandchildren someday? Assuming that I ever have any grandchildren, but that’s another story for another day.

As moving day approaches I can’t wait for this process to be over. I can have the fun job of unpacking, but that’s much better than packing. I’m in this makeshift office trying to get the show on. I have to look at the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s almost there. I’m moving back to Tampa, closer to my kids and my mom, but I have to leave Orlando with a sad heart because I’m moving away from my brother, my sister-in-law, and my husband’s sister. It’s a tough move but a good one as well.

I had a special guest on my show, Karen Hoppa, Head Coach of Auburn Soccer. She shared with us her philosophies on coaching at the highest level, right back to Division 1 level the SEC tournament is a super tough tournament to be in. She shared with us what she looks for in players. Those of you who are looking to get into those D1 schools, I hope you can take note of what she shared. If not you’ll be able to listen to it on iHeartRadio and iTunes. She also focuses on building great leaders within her team. I want to thank Karen Hoppa for coming on the show and sharing all her stories. She has had an amazing career to date and so many more exciting years to come.

Focus Of Carolyn Rivera Show

My show is all focused on ways to improve yourself, to gain some insight from others, people who have broken down the barriers before us. We learned from them and we learn from what they went through. We talked about what it takes to follow your dreams, to find the people who helped support you because we can’t do it alone. It has to start with us. We have to have a vision. We have to want to challenge the status quo and be able to go way up to the things that are important to us.

We all wish we can live in a world where everyone gets along. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Click To Tweet

Along the way, there are going to be times when others don’t agree with what you’re doing. They might not agree with your vision. They might not agree with your strategy. They might not agree with the dream that you are going after, and in those instances, you may run into some conflict. As we know, nobody likes conflict. We all wish we can live in a world where everyone gets along and we can see things from another point of view. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. We live in a diverse world where we should embrace the opportunity to hear other’s opinions, to learn continuously from other people. Maybe those people who have basically tried what you’re trying. Who’ve done what you’ve already set out to do, but we need to understand first what conflict is.

What Is Conflict?

Here is the definition of conflict. Webster defines it as a competitive or opposing action of incompatibles. That’s an antagonistic state or an action. For example, let’s say you don’t agree with something that someone else says and you have the difference of opinion. That’s where conflict arises. You may have an internal conflict with yourself, meaning you know right from wrong, we all do, but you want to do it anyway. If you’re an athlete and you have a big game, but your friends are all having a party and you want to go. You know you shouldn’t because you need to go home early, get your rest, you can’t stay up late, but you go anyway. You’re having this conflict within yourself.

There are many different conflicts that we’re faced with every day. The key is how do we handle them? Are we comfortable dealing with conflict? Do we know how to deal with conflict? Does the conflict affect our relationship with another person? There are so many things to consider. We are going to be talking about the levels of intensity when dealing with conflict because not all conflict feels the same. Some things are annoying. Some things we know annoy us and when people do it, it causes conflict, but other things are excruciating. They’re painful. They caused us anxiety.

There is this spectrum of conflict from, “Not so much,” to “If this happens to me again, I’m going to get so angry, I’m going to kill that person, I can’t deal with it anymore.” It is not a one size fits all. We are all different people and things that bother one person might not bother another. You might have a trigger that drives you to that high level of intensity, but the person that you’re talking to thinks it’s not a big deal. That’s where you have true conflict. That is the entire individual part to the puzzle of conflict because you will know when there is a conflict. We’re going to discuss strategies for dealing with conflict. How do you know what strategy to use when? There are all different situations and examples and we’re going to go through them.

Levels Of Intensity When Dealing With Conflict

There are different levels of intensity for conflict. I want to find out how to deal with conflict. Let’s start there because we’ve got to figure out what those intensity levels are so we know how to deal with them. The first is differences. This is a difference of opinion. That’s when two people see a situation differently and you can understand the other person’s position and you feel fine with that. You both understand that you see things differently and you’re comfortable with knowing that you see things differently. When you think about the level of intensity here, it’s low because it’s not bothersome to you. It doesn’t make you crazy. The conflict is something that you can brush off because it doesn’t matter.

CRS 009 | Conflict Management Strategies
Conflict Management Strategies: Misunderstandings can be damaging to a relationship especially if you don’t discuss it with the other person.


For example, let’s say you go to a movie and one person loves the movie and the person thought it was stupid, or one person loves the ending and the other person didn’t. The difference of opinion has a low impact on both people. They saw the same movie, they went the same time, they were together watching it, but they came away from it with two different ideas. It’s not that big of a deal. It doesn’t matter. Although you don’t agree, it doesn’t matter. You ‘re not going to sue over it. You’re not even going to give it a second thought because the intensity is low.

This is a small thing in terms of conflict. As we begin to go up this spectrum, the level of intensity increases. The second thing is misunderstanding. This is where you have a situation where one person totally misunderstands what the other person means, or they are taking action because of something totally different than what they meant. Let me give you an example. I was working in a company, running the training department. We had these meetings and there was one person who would come to the meeting every single time and bash training. I would sit across the table and wonder, “What is going on? Why is she bashing my department? What did I ever do to her?” This happens a couple of times.

I scheduled a meeting with her to find out what was going on. I went to her office and I said, “I need to know what I have done to make you upset?” She looked at me and said, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Every meeting for the last three meetings that we’ve had the team together, you continue to bash my team. I don’t understand why?” She looked at me baffled and she said, “I’m not bashing your team.” I said, “Yes, you are.” I gave her an example of how I felt she was bashing my team. She did not mean to bash my team at all but to me, it felt like she was. She started to cry in this meeting because she felt bad about this misunderstanding. After the discussion, she never did it again.

It took me bringing up these things that she thought she was bringing up to help my department, as a team, we’re sitting together. She didn’t realize how it was coming across and how it made me feel. It was a simple misunderstanding. What if I haven’t gone to talk to her about it? I would still think that she was out to get me. I wouldn’t trust her. These things kept happening in my head and I wouldn’t understand why she was doing this, and it would cause me to dislike her. Misunderstandings can be damaging to a relationship especially if you don’t discuss it with the other person. You’ll never find out what they are thinking if you don’t talk about it and you don’t bring it up to them. Some misunderstandings can be funny. I’ve been in a situation where this misunderstanding was hilarious. Think of a time back when you had a misunderstanding. What did you do about it? Did you let it go or did you continue to talk about it?

Let me give you some background into this story. First is, I was using a personality preference tool called Myers-Briggs. For those of you who don’t know anything about it, it’s a personality test. There are some letters that are associated with the results. I was working for a conservative company and my team had all gone through this Myers-Briggs personality test and we all knew each other’s personality types. My type is an ENTP. Everything is all about these four letters. A guy on my team was an ENFP.

To be able to manage conflict, you first need to be able to recognize that conflict exists. Click To Tweet

We’re all in a meeting and it was my team and myself. We were in our meeting, my brand new boss and we are talking about department vision, mission, team goals and objectives, and we’re all sitting around a table. One of the guys, the ENFP, he is one of those types of people that goes off on tangents. If something pops into his head and he will blurt it out because that’s the way his mind works. He interrupts you sometimes with something totally different. All of a sudden, I was talking and he recognizes that he pops in, he interrupts me, he talks about something and he says, “I’m sorry. It was just my penis.” My head whips around to look at him and I said, “What did you say?” He repeats it louder this time. I’m staring at him in disbelief and for a third time and with passion, he makes a fist and he bangs it on the table, and he says it again. I couldn’t help it. At this point I burst into uncontrollable laughter, it was hilarious.

Meanwhile, my new boss who is the human resource director does not believe what’s he’s hearing. This is his first meeting with the team. When I could finally stop laughing, I explained to him that Willy, this guy, was talking about the Myers-Briggs personality type and the P that he is referring to means perception and nothing inappropriate. It was a total misunderstanding. Imagine if he had walked in, walked out, heard that and left, I think we’d all be on final warning and that would be the end of it. Misunderstandings can cause a bit of problem at times, but I love that story. I’ve been telling that story for years. For those of you who know Myers-Briggs, if you’re a perception type of person, that’s exactly what you do, you constantly talk off topic and go on for days.

The next thing I’m going to bring up is a higher level of intensity, which is all about disagreements. This is when two people see a situation totally differently. Regardless of how well they understand the other’s point of view, they don’t see eye to eye. They cannot agree on that. I’m sure that some people have heard of the phrase, “We’re going to agree to disagree.” That’s what this is all about. You can’t get to the same place. You know that as this comes about, the intensity gets higher, but it all stems from what the conflict is all about. There are plenty of instances where disagreements can actually lead to full-blown fights. When you talk about politics or religion, there are two opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of beliefs. The people on one side are not going to change their value and change to the other side because these values, their beliefs and no matter what the other person is saying, it doesn’t change, it doesn’t matter.

Let me give you an example. I was working for this company and we were in a cost-cutting mode similar to some of the things that are happening because we’re in that mode. I was responsible for developing the training for all of the staff and my boss wanted to save money. We were delivering this highly technical topic. It was in a classroom setting because it gave people the opportunity to ask questions. We were on a tight time frame, we didn’t have a lot of time to go back and retrain, send out follow-ups and do all the things you would need to do in another environment. No matter what I said my boss didn’t care. He understood my thought. He understood what I was telling him, but he wanted me to create an eLearning module online. I did not agree with his decision at all because I didn’t think that the associates would be able to learn the material without the ability to get clarification. You can’t get clarification online. That’s what I had to do. I was pretty pissed but I did it anyway. We were in total disagreement because he fully understood what I wanted. I fully understood what he wanted, but we weren’t going to meet.

Disagreements can be challenging. In your mind, you feel you’re doing the right thing and you know that you have the best way, but sometimes you’re not allowed to make it happen. That’s where these things can escalate. That’s an example of disagreement. The last thing, the highest level of intensity and conflict is called polarization. This is a bad situation because your emotions are high and you might be at a point of no return. When it gets to this state, it’s tough to turn it around. You should try your hardest not to let a situation get to this level because there’s probably yelling, they’re screaming, there are things that can’t be good. An example of this can be lifestyle differences. I know that we’ve all had instances where families don’t talk to one another. It could be because they don’t agree with how you’re raising the kids, who you married or the type of life that you’re leading. There are all sorts of instances where this happens.

The first thing about conflict is that you have to nip it in the bud. You can’t let it fester or it will continue to grow and get worse. Click To Tweet

Conflict Management Strategies

I shared a story of one of the bosses that I had. I work for somebody who had a polarizing personality. When he was good, he was good, he was fine. If he didn’t like something then he would scream, yell, curse and he wouldn’t listen, and by doing that he distanced himself from the team. He caused us to lose respect for him and dislike working with him. These are the different levels of conflict intensity. To be able to manage conflict, you first need to be able to recognize that conflict exists. The more intense the conflict, the easier it is to recognize it. That’s what we’re going to talk about going forward. What strategies can we take to help us through this conflict?

We have an understanding of the levels of intensity with conflict. The next thing we have to do is figure out how to manage conflict. Some things are not going to face us and other things are going to drive us crazy and we need to understand how to deal with it. The first thing about conflict is that you have to nip it in the bud. You can’t let it fester, because once you let it fester, it continues to grow and it continues to get worse. You can’t turn back time and it’s going to take you to some level of your breaking point and you don’t want to let it get there. How do we work through these issues? The first thing to do is determine, do we confront the issue or not?

There are certain times when you can let things go. Maybe it wasn’t that important to you. Maybe it doesn’t matter at all. In those instances, fine, let it go, but you have to know whether it truly bothers you or not. You can fake yourself into letting it go this time because you don’t want to deal with it, but if it is something that bothers you, it’s going to come back. You truly have to take a step back and think about, “Do I care about this or not?” If you decided to let it go, then you truly need to forget about it. You can’t forget about it and bring it up again. That is the first thing that you have to consider.

There are some scenarios when confronting can be risky. Let’s say the issue is with your boss. You’re upset about something that he or she does, and you know that your boss maybe not going to take it that well, or that bringing it up may not change the outcome. If you do that, you might be putting yourself in a bad situation. You have to understand the situation and make a decision based on that. I can tell you that I had this exact situation happen to me. I was in a meeting all day with my boss and clients and we went out to dinner and then to a bar to play pool. I didn’t drink at all, but my boss was downing drinks like it was soda.

After I beat them all in pool, we were headed back to the hotel. My boss was the one who drove us there. We were headed to the car and I assumed that I would be the one driving, but my boss wanted to drive. I was like, “Are you kidding me?” I said, “There is no way that you’re driving. You were drinking all night long.” He laughed and he tried to shrug it off and I was like, “I’m not kidding. You are not driving.” He was pissed. He threw the keys at me. He was livid. I think it was more of this power thing for him. I didn’t care because there was no way I was getting into a car with him. He was plastered drunk. I don’t care if we had five miles or a mile to go to the hotel. I was not having it. I knew he wasn’t happy but I took a risk, and I confronted the issue. Truthfully, we didn’t get along well after that, but it didn’t matter to me because I felt so strongly about that that I had to confront it. Come hell or high water it didn’t matter. That issue at hand needed to be dealt with then. You need to do the same thing.

CRS 009 | Conflict Management Strategies
Conflict Management Strategies: In order for any relationship to work, don’t stand on high ground. You have to give up something to get something in return.


You will need to know when to confront and when not to. If the issue is unimportant, then again you don’t have to confront. The other side of the coin is all about avoidance. There is a strategy of avoiding issues and it can be something that’s effective if you understand when you should do it. If you’re avoiding an issue because you don’t feel like dealing with it, then that’s not the right approach. You are not helping another person or yourself by simply avoiding conflict. By not talking about it, you’re making it worse.

We were talking about avoiding and how if you avoid things, what can happen? I don’t know if you guys remember the sitcom, The Odd Couple where one person was this clean person and the other person was the complete slob and they always had this conflict. My daughter was rooming with a slob. She complained about it for a long time. Her roommate would go into her room and take her stuff without asking. These are two big problems. The best approach to handling the scenario is to nip it in the bud. Set the ground rules up front. Even before you move in together, that would be a good conversation to have. Everyone needs to understand the rules of the game and before the game starts, make that happen. That’s the way we work it.

This didn’t happen and my daughter and I would talk on the phone, and she would tell me all the things her roommate was doing. Every passing day she would get angrier but she doesn’t like conflict. None of us do. She didn’t do anything about it. I think we were probably in month ten of them rooming together and that’s when my daughter hit her breaking point. She was so unhappy that she blurted it out one day. The problem with that situation is that think about it from the other person’s point of view. We’re ten months into this rooming scenario and I’ve been doing the same thing since day one. I’ve been a slob since day one. I’ve been going into your room and taking your stuff since day one, but you never told me that it was annoying you. When you avoid the issue, you avoid it to a point you’re going to break. You’re going to have a point in time where there is no return and that’s what happened. My daughter finally confronted the issue but by that time, it was at this polarizing state. They both couldn’t pass it and the remaining time that they live together was awful. By simply talking about it, do not avoid the issue, confront the issue, you can avoid this conflict going forward.

Another strategy is all about compromise. When you’re dealing with the situation, there are times when you may have to compromise to resolve this issue. This is when each party makes some concessions. In order to work together, to move past issues, you have to make concessions. Any marriage, any relationship, anything that you do is a give and take. You have to give up certain things, you’re willing to change this and the person is willing to change that. In order for any relationship to work and in order to help you through some conflict, don’t stand on ceremonies, don’t stand on this high ground. You have to give up something to get something in return.

Our memories are good and we remember those things that we will have to give up. If you are not getting something in return, if there’s not a compromise, you’re always going to unconsciously think about this in the back of your mind. When you make a compromise, make sure that both parties are giving in and that there is a give and take. Make it a win-win scenario where both people feel like they won. When I was on survivor, I had to compromise a few times. I wanted to vote off certain contestants, this one in particular. The other people in my alliance were not ready to do that. We made a deal and we said, “If you vote my way for this vote, then I’ll vote your way for the next vote.” That strengthened our relationship because I felt like, “They’re going to do my plan as long as I do their plan.” It worked great for both of us. Compromise is a good strategy to use when there is a conflict because both people feel like they’re winning.

When you make a compromise, make sure that it is a win-win scenario where both people feel like they won. Click To Tweet

Another strategy is to accommodate. This is when you basically give in. There are times when you would give up things that are important to you for the good of someone else. In a relationship, this works all the time. When I got married, both my husband and I were working. You never think to discuss how this working thing is going to work for both of you going forward. In those days, the two-income household was not just beginning, but it was in the beginning stages. I was given an opportunity to get a promotion to further my career, but we would have to move out of New York to Maryland. That meant my husband would have to quit his job and find one in Maryland.

We talked about it and we decided, “Let’s go.” That’s exactly what he did but it didn’t stop there. In Maryland, I was offered another opportunity. My husband, in order to further my career and allow me to take another promotion, he would have to move again and give up a job that he liked and move from Maryland to Texas. When you think about this, accommodate, you’re giving up possibly something that is important to you for the good of someone else. That is another strategy that you can use when you have a conflict.

There is one last strategy that I want to share with you. I know that I’ve given you so much information to think about, but if you take a tidbit away, that makes you stronger in dealing with conflict going forward. The last thing is collaborating. This is where you work closely with other people to achieve a common goal. Everyone sees the value. It’s a win-win scenario. The tough part about collaboration is that it can take time because you’re dealing with more than one person and everyone wants to be heard, they want to share their voice. When you think about collaboration, the real benefit to that is you’re adding to your skillset because now you’re bringing in people with a different point of view.

You’re having the ability to see things from another angle. I’m sure that most people would never have thought that Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga would ever collaborate together. When you think about them, they’re two totally different people. Tony Bennett, he’s this big band singer, he is jazz, and he is 86. Lady Gaga is more of a pop star. She is out there and she is 40 years younger. They are worlds apart, but they were able to collaborate together and put together a fabulous album. Collaboration is effective because it gives you the opportunity to learn from other people and to bring more people in.

We talked about conflict and we all hate conflict. We hate to deal with conflict. It makes us unhappy, crazy, angry, and it gets us insane. The first thing you have to be able to do is recognize the level of intensity. If you know where you’re at on that spectrum, it’s going to help you. We talked about differences when two people see things from a different point of view. We talked about misunderstandings and how significant a misunderstanding can be. We talked about disagreements. When you know that they understand your point of view and you understand their point of view, but it doesn’t matter, you are going to agree to disagree because there is no bringing you two together. The last thing was polarization. That’s when you’ve reached that breaking point. You’ve reached the point of no return because you’ve let it fester. You didn’t nip it in the bud.

We talked about ways to handle it. What are the strategies to manage conflict? We talked about accommodating. Sometimes you’re giving in to somebody else’s dream, to somebody else’s goal, to collaborate your problem solving together, you’re working together to make things a win-win scenario. Avoiding, when to avoid a situation that’s going to put you in a trying spot and when not to avoid the situation because if you do avoid it, then it causes more problems. Compromising, when you have to give up something to get something in return. Those are the things that you have to consider. Remember, The Carolyn Rivera Show is all about you the readers. Follow me on Instagram at @CarolynJRivera14 or go to my website at Share the topics that you want to talk about.

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