Yesterday I started with telling you why I believe conflict resolution is one of the most underrated but also most important skills when it comes to changing the world.

So: How do you do it? How do you solve conflicts in a way that leaves everybody content? No suck-it-up-and-grin, no resentment left over, no breakdown in communications?

For that, you first need to understand how conflicts arise.

1. What people want and need are two very different things

People all over the globe work like this (based on scientific research): They all have the same basic needs. Basic needs for food, shelter, sleep, sex; social needs for connection, community, companionship, for being heard, but also for contribution; mental needs for adventure, learning, understanding and expression of creativity; spiritual needs for self-actualization and meaning.

Where people are very different is how they choose (or are taught, culturally) to meet their needs.

On the needs-level we have no conflicts.

On the strategy-level we have conflicts all the time.

Now, the beautiful thing is: There are many different ways you can actually meet your needs. So if you know what your needs in any given situation are (a process that sometimes takes some serious effort and self-reflection), you have a lot more choice in how you meet it.

Let’s say you get home after a long day of work and have a strong need for rest. Your favorite strategy for this is lying on your bed for half an hour listening to music. Now, for some reason, your bed is occupied. You’ve let a friend who’s in trouble stay over and he sleeps in your bed. Also, your iphone just stopped working today.

You now have a choice: You can spend the evening unhappy, blaming your friend and Apple or yourself for being so stupid, or you can try to connect with your need for rest and find out what other ways there are to meet it. Then you would find out that taking a walk is not so bad either, or you could take a bath, call a good friend of yours and chat, or you could relaxedly cook something or you could do something totally different that I can’t think of right now because I’m not as creative as you are.

Same in a conflict between two or more people: If you actually find out the needs that people have in a conflict, you can work together to create new strategies that meet all of the needs. Instead of focusing on who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s to blame, who deserves what etc. (It’s called the “blame game”, and it’s one of the biggest time wasters I know.)

“Most of us live in a world where we take turns using the other person as a waste basket for our words.”

Marshall Rosenberg, PhD

Let’s create another world.

Up next:

(I can only write so much in my morning 30 minutes…)

2. How to deconstruct your enemy images based on needs (and how that’s key to transforming societal problems).

3. The 1 thing you need to do to transform tough conflicts


(This is the article of day 14 of the 30 day blog challenge. To be notified of new posts, subscribe to the mailinglist on the right.)

Photo credit: mdanys