Conflict Readiness, Ownership, & 7 Reflection Questions to Prepare You for a Collaborative Approach

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There are many ways to handle conflict and many programs exist that teach a particular model for managing conflict.  You may have taken a course in conflict management or taken a test to determine your tendencies.  No doubt many of you have learned about strategies to deal with conflict such as avoiding, compromising, accommodating or collaborating.Although collaboration is not always the best route to take in every conflict, it does offer wonderful opportunities for creative problem solving and highly effective team development.   We know that both of these outcomes are important to quality, safe care as well as positive workplaces.Promoting productive conflict is often about ownership and respect.  By being clear about what you need or want, (ownership)—and doing so with respect for what another person wants– you will set the tone for others to do the same.   This in and of itself can turn a potential power struggle into a collaborative process.For this reason, the following 7 reflection questions will help you prepare for dealing with a conflict in a collaborative way. They are designed to help you combine “ownership and respect” with clear limit-setting about what you are able and willing to do.  The goal is to find new possibilities for creative problem-solving and satisfying results.   

  1.   1.  What are my own feelings in this situation and how are they related to this situation versus other factors? Be mindful of how your current stress level, work assignment, health status or history of similar situations might be contributing to what is happening in the present.  You do not have to share all of the details, but be willing to own that your reaction may be influenced by a variety of factors.


  1. Is there some aspect about how I feel which I can take responsibility for safely? Look for ways to be open without compromising safety for example; “I’m upset about your tone for personal reasons” Is quite different from; “I’m a nervous wreck because of my experience in an abusive relationship”.  How open you choose to be may vary with the type of relationship you would like to evolve.
  1. Do I feel secure about my own perspective and open to learning about others’ perspectives?   If productive outcomes can include input from others it is likely that you are in a state of curiosity rather than defense.  This can be key to creative problem solving.
  1. Do I have a direct and honest statement to begin a conversation?  If you are ready to talk honestly and clearly about something that is bothering you it will more likely lead to solutions that will really help.   “I have some concerns about the conversation we had yesterday when I asked for your help with Mr. Smith’s dressing change.  I’d like to talk with you about them.“
  1. What reasonable request can I make of others?  You may want someone to jump up and help at any given moment, but it may be more appropriate to ask for respectful tone and body language along with clear limit-setting.What am I willing to do that might contribute to solutions?  Accepting that someone may not be able to help you, seeking help from others, and being open to learning a more efficient way of doing the dressing change could all be ways to contribute to this type of situation.
  1. What limits do I have about what I will or will not do?  “I’m very happy to cover your lunch break, but I need to leave on time today and won’t be available to help with your new admit.”
  1. How can you reward yourself for spending time with self-reflection?  Get together with a friend, buy yourself some new music or anything that will be a way to do something nice for yourself.  You deserve it!

Spending time thinking about these questions is hard work and an important contribution to any collaborative effort.  Nurses who are willing to reflect and own their part of any problem will be taking big steps towards solving many difficult situations we face.  Even if you do not share any of the answers with others, you will increase your self-awareness and self-respect as well as a sense of the possibility for new and positive approaches.  Good luck and congratulations for doing this work.  It isn’t easy!  Let me know what you think of this article and don’t forget to check out my book,  Confident Voices: The Nurses’ Guide to Improving Communication & Creating Positive Workplaces there are all sorts of tips and strategies for contributing to healthcare cultures where nurses thrive.

(Special book offer:  SAVE  20% NOW  at Beth’s EStore  Use coupon code:  D359FSBP)

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