Managing Conflict to Resolve Disputes with Dialogue


Managing conflict to resolve disputes with dialogue begins with our understanding of how dialogue works, trust develops and understanding is reached.

In our own ‘journey from confrontation to collaboration’ (Harper, 2004), dialogue plays an important role in resolving interpersonal disputes.

Dialogue is a process, beyond communication, that creates an environment for engaging in conflict management and dispute resolution.

Managing Conflict to Resolve Disputes with Dialogue

In the ‘Joy of Conflict Resolution’ (Harper, 2004), Harper explains that ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ (p.26) suggests that we, as human beings, are motivated by physiological needs, safety needs, belonging needs, esteem needs in order to reach a state of self-actualization. Within these needs, in particular, the needs for safety, belonging and esteem, the process of dialogue is useful in offering those engaged in conflict and disputes an opportunity to manage the conflict and resolve the dispute.

Image of triangle about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

The Dialogue Process

The dialogue process is similar in design as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (p.26) as it builds on one concept to the next in the shape of a triangle. Explained, the dialogue process begins with awareness.


image of the dialogue triangle from Peak Conflict Solutions

Steps for Dialogue

  1. Awareness is key in beginning to engage in a process of dialogue. When we become aware of our own conflict management style and can hunch at others’ conflict management styles and make assumptions, we can clarify our assumptions by engaging in the process of dialogue. Awareness is the first step to engaging in the dialogue process and managing conflict and resolving disputes.
  2. The second step is through understanding. To really, truly understand another’s point of view or position in a conflict or dispute, we must be willing to engage in a discussion that is open and positive for resolution. To achieve this, we can work collaboratively to create an environment in which collaboration is welcome and accepted, regardless of the desired outcome. We must be willing to let go of our desire to reiterate our unmet needs and goals and be willing to embrace the possibilities.
  3. Aligning our behaviour shows others we understand. Once understanding is reached between each of the parties engaged in conflict and dispute, it is important to align our behaviour to demonstrate our awareness and understanding. This is the next step!
  4. Trust is developed through understanding, acceptance and compassion. Once we align our behaviour, in our demonstration of accepting the other person’s point of view, not necessarily agreeing with the other person, we can then start to build trust between us.
    1. Trust is a concept that we often believe we will automatically be rewarded with once we understand a conflict or dispute situation. This is a gross assumption as the foundation of trust is through demonstrated behaviour. In various roles, we may be expected to trust automatically, however, this is not the case, even in situations where we are dependant on another to be trusting, we still seek out demonstrated behaviour to prove that the individual, group, nation is trustworthy. This is parallel with Maslow’s (1940) explanation of safety needs.

Just as with Maslow’s (1940’s) concept of ‘self-actualization’ (p.26), once we develop awareness, understanding, then align our behaviour and are able to trust, we reach a state of unity and balance at the top of the Dialogue Process triangle. This equity and balance is a result of having a willingness to resolve a conflict or dispute.


The process of dialogue is paramount in managing conflict to resolve disputes. When engaged in any personal or professional activity, it is important to recognize that there is a framework for discussions that naturally occurs when we are engaged in dialogue.

Thank you for reading my post.

Until next time,


Keep Your Conversations Forward Moving

If mastering the science of conflict management is a goal you have for yourself in 2018, complete your FREE professional conflict management assessment to learn how to pro-manage conflict at work. Knowing your style is an important first step to working through conflict situations and finding solutions. Backed with testing in 16+ years of training events, our assessment is designed to provide you with options to prepare for your next journey into a difficult conversation. Get your personalized Conflict Management Assessment at Peak Conflict Solutions.

Want more? Read ‘Dispute Resolution at Work’.

Interested in mastering conflict management skills? Start by reading ‘20 LinkedIn Posts About Conflict Management Training’.



Harper, G. (2004). The joy of conflict resolution: transforming victims, villains and heroes in the workplace and at home. (pp. 21-43). Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publisher.

About The Author

Suzanne Marie

Living life to its fullest. Building mighty communities through connection, belonging, security, and love. I am founder and CEO at Peak Conflict Solutions and my purpose in life is to show your workplace how to set the tone for connection, belonging, and security while creating space for conflict management.