13 Conflict Resolution Conversation Starters

Sep 23, 2023
A diverse team of colleagues standing around one person seated in front of a laptop who need to resolve conflict that is building up.

The ways in which we might respond to conflict are similar to how we respond to stress: Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Fawn. There’s another way to resolve conflict that’s the focus of our post today: Face. Thanks to our most recent Monday Kickstarters session, we offer 13 conversations starters for conflict resolution that pave the way for facing the conflict calmly and productively.

Resolving conflict can be a healthy part of both personal & professional relationships. It can be the genesis for creativity and breakthrough ideas, heightened performance, and achieving a culture of “we” that is increasingly in demand today.

We invite you to read on for ways to utilize Conversations Worth Having practices to face and resolve conflict in ways that might help you achieve desired outcomes.

Positive Frame

Name it:  I’m unable to squash conflict with employees fighting for power.

Flip it: I can squash conflict with employees fighting for power.

Frame it: We’re uniting as a team to excel as an organization, creating harmony and energy.

Other Suggested Frames:

  • We have a sense of abundance.
  • We have harmony, can collaborate and are growing together.
  • When conflict arises in the future, we have greater awareness earlier and can shift the tone and direction of our conversations.

Generative Questions

Once the frame was in place, we generated 13 conversation starters for conflict resolution. Generative questions play an important role in facing and resolving conflict because they pique our curiosity. They help us widen the lens by making the invisible visible, creating shared understanding, generating new knowledge, and inspiring possibilities. 

Questions for Self

  1. What assumptions am I making about the employees’ approach to working together?
  2. What can I learn about this subject?
  3. How am I getting in my own way?

Questions for Others

  1. How is the team seeing the situation?
  2. Whose lives are we changing when we manage conflict?
  3. What difference can we make in the world by coming together?
  4. How might we maximize our breadth of knowledge?
  5. Who might we look up to as an organization that “gels”?
  6. When have we pulled together to accomplish something great?
  7. What is one step we can take today to move on?
  8. Where might we be a year from now when we’ve collaborated to tackle a wicked problem?
  9. When our company publishes its annual report, what do we want to see written about how we’ve achieved unity as an example for others?
  10. How will we know it’s working? What results will we see from the harmony and energy we’ve created?

For more generative questions for self and teams, see the Discussion Guide Questions at the end of the book Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement

Cool Tip!

Learning to ask generative questions is a skill that develops with practice. At first, even the term “generative question” might seem unfamiliar. It helps to remember that a generative question is the positive opposite of an unproductive question that offers little meaningful insight and is in many ways limiting, questions such as “Why did you do that?” or “Do we really want to risk our reputation?” On the other hand, generative questions allow us to paint a vivid image or metaphor of what might be possible – these are very open-end questions. They invite new ways of solving complex problems and provide compelling images for collective action.

As you begin your practice of asking generative questions, here are five to help get you started:

  1. What else might explain what happened?
  2. How do you see it?
  3. What might be possible if?
  4. How have you seen it done before?
  5. How good could it get?

Monday Kickstarters

This Conflict Resolution topic came from our Fall 2023 Monday Kickstarters series. Monday Kickstarters are working sessions to figure out how to have a conversation worth having when faced with a tough situation, challenge, or problem on leadership or performance.

Do you have a tough situation you’d like reframing? Join us on September 25th for Monday Kickstarters. Register at The Center for Appreciative Inquiry Or at Conversations Worth Having.

Shared by: Kelly Stewart, certified Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator and Conversations Worth Having Trainer. She is founder of The Positive Business, facilitating strategic conversations rooted in Appreciative Inquiry, believing deeply that better results begin with better conversations. She’s also a Rod Stewart fan (no relation) who was originally a member of the English Rock band, Faces. 😊


Sign up for our Free newsletter

Get valuable resources, information and events that spark curiosity and invite exploration into Conversations Worth Having.

You're safe with us. We will never spam you or sell your contact information.