Monday, March 7, 2011

Conflict Management Coaching

Posted on Monday, March 07, 2011 by International Coach Federation

Coaches from the wide range of contexts regularly help clients to work through their interpersonal conflicts. Related goals may have to do with ways to better manage an ongoing conflict, to prepare for one that is anticipated or to resolve a past dispute that is lingering. Some clients may also want to improve their general conflict competence.

For example, objectives may be about how they react to certain triggers, how to regulate their emotions when involved in contentious discussions or how to enhance their communication skills. Relevant to providing conflict management coaching (also known as conflict coaching) is that the language in the field of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has shifted from conflict management to conflict engagement. This is premised on helping people to gain the knowledge, skills and abilities to effectively participate in interpersonal conflict, rather than avoid it or wait until things have escalated before addressing them.

The inherent philosophical shift in this language is significant for those of us who either specialize in conflict management coaching or find ourselves commonly coaching clients about their interpersonal disputes.

Not surprisingly, one important requirement to do this sort of work well is to examine the strength of our own personal and professional foundation in conflict engagement. In this regard, some examples of possible questions to examine the strength of your foundation in this area are:

• On a scale of 1-10, 10 being to a great extent, how much do you view conflict as an opportunity to sort out differences and improve my relationships?

• What do you have to learn and work on to build your conflict management foundation?

• What conflict habits do you have that do not serve you or others well? What are you getting from holding on to them?

• What are your ‘hot buttons’? How come these are ‘hot’ for you?

• How much do you consider and take responsibility for your own contribution to disputes?

• To what extent do you regulate your emotions when you are in conflict?

• What are you gaining from blaming ‘the other person’ in your disputes, when you do?

• What is keeping you from letting go of old hurts that have a negative impact on one or more of your relationships?

• How else may you view your conflicts and ‘the other person’ so that you do not react in ways that are counterproductive?

• What keeps you from apologizing for your part of a dispute?

• For what do you need to ask forgiveness?

These are just some suggested questions to consider in your efforts to reflect on your own conflict competence and examine what gaps there may be in this area of your lives. I welcome your further suggestions.

Cinnie Noble, ACC, LL.B., LL.M. (ADR) is a lawyer-mediator and the Founder of the CINERGY® model of conflict management coaching. She hosts ICF’s Conflict Management Coaching Special Interest Group which holds monthly teleseminars on related topics. Cinnie’s website is and she may be contacted at


  1. I witness conflict within the workplace every day. Often, the conflict is self-induced or self-created by an individual's interpretation or reaction to some event. It is generally difficult at the time of the event for a person to step back and logically address the conflict. Your questions bring the wisdom of internal reflection to resolving the conflict from a place of "me" vs the other. Thank you for this insight.

  2. Love this post. As a student of Nonviolent COmmunication, I would add:

    When you are triggered, what is missing for you?
    Can you identify specific feelings as "residing" in certain parts of your body?
    Do you have a vocabulary of feelings and needs?

  3. Thank you so much Lori Jean and Deborah for your comments.

    It's so true LoriJean. The importance of coaches gaining increased insights by self reflecting on how we manage conflict and helping our clients do so cannot be overstated.

    Deborah's additional questions are great examples of other lines of that serve to facilitate that process. --Cinnie

  4. I like that you include coaching around resolving a past interpersonal issue. As coaches, we need to be "given permission" to use our client's past in our coaching work.

    I'd personally like to see the definition of coaching changed to include how we do go into our client's past to help create awareness and understanding for choices they make today. I know MANY coaches who do this, yet if you look at the ICF definition of coaching, this doesn't appear to be "coaching".

    I think more work needs to be done to define what coaching versus therapy is. Saying that coaches do not explore the past is untrue.

  5. Thank you Susan for your comments.

    I will add that if a client is telling me about their past dispute, I need not delve into their upbringing or other genesis of their conduct, in order to coach them. For instance, if a client says “I’m hard on people when I’m in conflict because my father was such a tough task-master”, it is not necessary to ask the client to process that relationship in order to help them examine alternate and more effective ways to engage in conflict.

  6. Conflict management is necessary for all mid and large businesses. Nowadays, over the web, a widest selection of professionals can be seen providing this management training so that your employees can adequately handle the difficult customers and other major to minor issues in an effective manner. I am also sharing a website which deals in offering this training to various mid and large businesses. You can consider visiting there.


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