Conflict Coaching

Dealing With the Times of Struggle

Sometimes, even the best will of differing parties isn’t enough to see us through times of conflict and struggle. Whether dealing with workplace conflict, social hostilities, or other forms of lack of accord, having someone to moderate, negotiate and provide instruction in the skills of reconciliation is good. Finding a coach to help carry a corporation, community, or couple through hard times and tough fights isn’t easy, but it may make a difference in the outcome.

A new approach to conflict:

  • History of conflict management
  • Coaching is a new philosophy
  • Finding a professional coach

Professional mediation is nothing new. From our earliest days, our leaders have chosen diplomats, religious figures, policing agents, and more to provide oversight and control, and to manage disputes peacefully and productively.

The last century saw the development of the formal classification of mediators. Working in labor-management disputes, communities in crisis, providing intervention in everything from political melt-downs to hostage crises, mediation became a matter of skill, much in demand and much admired.
There was only one problem: a mediator came, did his or her work, and left. The conflicting parties didn’t learn to communicate with each other; they learned to communicate under the supervision and guidance of the mediator. Indeed, they often didn’t communicate with anyone but the mediator.

Finding a New Way

While this “Lone Ranger” approach can be very effective in emergencies, or one-time events, many conflicts are of long-standing, with permanently embedded participants. Labor and management may come into direct confrontation over a contract renewal, but they deal with each other – and struggle with each other – on a daily basis. Neither can leave, and neither will. Further, their needs, goals, and expectations can never be identical.

This sort of permanent Catch-22 exists in thousands of forms, and must be dealt with regularly. Most of us experience at least one type of ongoing conflict of belief, attitude, interest or expectation. Few of us know how to deal with it without giving up our own stance, or disrespecting those who hold other positions.

Conflict coaching is aimed at teaching the skills of communication, compassion, and reconciliation, along with basic negotiating skills, and personal disciplines that can help keep a difficult situation from flaring out of control. A skilled conflict coach will work with participants in conflicted relationships to promote understanding, reasoned compromise, the ability to trade losses for gains, styles of communicating respect, and more.

When a Lone Ranger mediator rode out of town, the problems stayed behind with him, repaired only insofar as a simple one-shot fix could accomplish. When a conflict coach leaves, he or she leaves a community that has greater skills, a better understanding of each faction’s most pressing necessities, and they have methods and approaches to continue the work the coach began.

Finding a Great Coaching Pro

There are many ways a community, company, or other group needing conflict coaching can locate skilled conflict coaches. When looking for a conflict coach, a good place to start is with a mediating professional organization like the ACR, (Association for Conflict Resolution). In many cases, these associations can refer you to great pros, or at least provide you with rosters of trained professionals qualified for membership.

Another approach is to draw on the skills and background information of a good counseling referral service. These agencies have the skills, and access to the information, that lets them provide you with a selection of capable professional coaches who can respond to the needs of you and your community


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