Modifying Your Strategies to Manage Conflict

Think for a moment about a recent conflict. What was in dispute? Maybe the conflict was about the way you do something in your practice or how the team manages time. In most cases, our conflicts are about strategies or actions, not about needs and interests. This is a very important distinction for managing conflict.

Conflict JR

We almost always have the same needs such as safety, support, stimulation, and community, to name a few, and rarely are we in conflict about needs. Many of our interests are also similar such as working with a great team, having dependable friends, living in a safe neighborhood, and doing excellent and meaningful work. Conflict arises when we have opposing strategies for achieving our interests and needs, as pointed out in book Changing the Conversation – The 17 Principles of Conflict Resolution by Dana Caspersen.

Dental teams may experience this, for example, as they attempt to track who they asked for referrals. The doctor and hygienists’ strategies may involve adding a separate chart note to remember who they asked for referrals. The assistants may use pop up screens. The front team may put notes in the patient’s ledger. Conflict arises from the confusion of using three strategies for accomplishing the same result.

Teams can spend considerable time arguing about and defending their individual strategy—in this example, how they track asking for referrals. However, the needs and interests are the same: asking great patients to refer family and friends without asking them too often.


Therefore, to better manage conflict, identify the needs and interests of the opposing parties. In most cases, you will find that needs and interests are very similar, and when you can step back from the conflict enough to see you have shared needs and interests, you are more likely to have less of a death grip on your strategy of choice. Compromise then has an opportunity to find a shared path.

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