5.1. Better Conflict Resolution

We don’t just have problems. We have problems with our ability to collectively solve our problems. 

We need to be more strategic about how we work for change.

Having all these social problems—plus a great awareness that things aren’t going well, and a great desire to create real, lasting social change—should, in theory, lead to actual change.

But that’s not what’s happened.

Instead, over the past few decades, we’ve had more stagnation, more dysfunction, more heated clashes, wider divisions.

We don’t just have problems. We have problems with our ability to collectively solve our problems.

Conflict isn’t the worst thing in the world…as long as we have good conflict resolution skills.

There’s no way, in a world of seven and a half billion people, that we aren’t going to have people clashing, disagreeing, and stepping on each other’s toes.

Even people who truly love each other butt heads frequently.

Just as a loving, long-term relationship needs healthy, respectful, productive ways of resolving conflicts to be successful…that’s what we need in our society.

But that’s the opposite of what we have right now.

All the things that psychologists can tell you are horribly unproductive in personal relationships—defensiveness, demonization, overgeneralization, stubbornness, stonewalling, condescension, criticism, contempt, blaming, and attacking—are all over the place in our societal relationships.

We’re doing a truly abysmal job dealing with our political, economic, and social conflicts.

We’ve got to do better.

And none of us is exempt from that.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Yeah, we totally aren’t dealing well with our social conflicts…but I’m one of the few who’s reasonable. I’m one of the few who knows what needs to be done. They’re the ones who are getting in the way of a successful resolution.”

Maybe you really are more reasonable or right than most. But nobody gets to just sit back, feeling smug and superior, waiting for the rest of the world to come around to seeing it your way.

Yes, it’s frustrating to try to engage others in good faith, when they won’t extend the same courtesy to you. But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying.

In the end, good conflict resolution is good conflict resolution…regardless of whether the other party is cooperating.

We all know what good conflict resolution looks like. Be respectful. Listen. Be open and flexible. Look for win-win situations or fair compromises, instead of trying to coerce or manipulate the outcome so only you win.

Yet we live in a time when good conflict resolution has been demonized—equated with selling out or surrendering one’s “values,” instead of being the key to making things better.

No wonder things are getting worse!

We need to buck this trend.

Keep reaching out. Keep engaging in good faith with people who disagree with you.

Don’t worry if they don’t always engage back. Maybe, if you keep at it, they’ll eventually come around.

And don’t worry if you’re accused of being a traitor, simply for sincerely wanting to work things out.

No matter what sciences, philosophies, political parties, or religions you subscribe to, using the principles of good conflict resolution is ultimately going to make things better—not worse.


This is the 77th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *