Salvaging Relationships After Conflict

Managing conflict involves more than just resolving the disagreement. If you fail to address the emotional and psychological needs of those involved, you may find the conflict returning and/or severe damage to the relationship may occur.

Depending on the severity of the conflict and how it was handled at each step of the resolution process, it may be impossible to go back to the point in the relationship that you were in before the disagreement. The key to reducing this possibility is to identify and address conflicting issues as early as possible. The longer an issue remains unresolved, the more damage it can cause. Whenever possible, apply one or more of the following strategies to help protect and salvage the relationship(s) between you and your coworkers, supervisor and customers. The following are key steps for saving a relationship once conflict occurs:

Reaffirm the value of the relationship. You cannot assume that others feel the same as you or understand your intent unless you communicate it. Tell them how much you value your relationship. This is especially important when dealing with customers.

Demonstrate commitment. You must verbalize and demonstrate your desire to continue or strengthen your relationship. The way to do this with customers is through service recovery or working collectively with the customer to rebuild trust and the relationship.

Be realistic. Because of behavioral styles, it is difficult for some people to “forgive and forget.” You have to systematically help restore their trust. It can take a while to accomplish this, but the effort is well worth it.

Remain flexible. A solid relationship involves the ability to give and take. It is especially crucial that you and the other people involved make concessions following conflict.

Keep communication open. One of the biggest causes of conflict and destroyed relationships is poor communication.

Gain commitment. You cannot do it all by yourself. Get a commitment to work toward reconciliation from any other person(s) involved in the conflict.

Monitor progress. Do not assume because the conflict was resolved that it will remain that way. Deep seated issues often resurface, especially when commitment was not obtained.

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