Conflict is a natural part of the human experience. Whether it’s a disagreement with friends or just a random banter with our siblings, we may find ourselves in a war of words with someone, no matter how we spend our time or how old we are.
For instance, kids on the playground disagree over who gets to go down the slide, adults get angry with each other in traffic, and coworkers experience conflict over everything from the break room snacks to project collaboration.
Most of us learn from an early age how to handle conflict appropriately, taking turns, expressing ourselves calmly, and talking out our problems without creating more. After all, unresolved conflict can make any environment tense, uncomfortable, or even hostile. But what if two people can’t resolve a dispute on their own? That’s when it’s time to try conflict coaching.
If you think you can handle two parties fighting and help them resolve issues, this niche could be for you. Here’s everything you need to know about conflict coaching, how to conduct these sessions, and how to become a conflict coach.
So what is conflict coaching?
Conflict coaching is a set of skills and strategies to resolve disagreements between two or more people. This process is popular when the parties can’t manage a conflict independently, including divorces, workplace disputes, family disagreements, and more.
In typical conflict coaching scenarios, the coach meets with each party individually to offer support and guidance. The coach hears the client’s story, helps them process emotions, and provides solutions that reasonably fix the issue. The coach may even walk the client through the resolution process, helping them understand constructive communication. Then, the coach may also act as a mediator when all parties come together to bury the hatchet and move forward.
When is conflict coaching useful?
Conflict coaching is a valuable tool for any disputes with a communication breakdown. Many relationships and scenarios fall into this category, including the following:
- A divorced couple uses a conflict coach to keep things cordial during mediation
- Coworkers who can’t seem to collaborate and tick off tasks in harmony work with a conflict coach to improve their relationship and diminish tensions in the workplace
- A family fighting over inheritance or other legal issues uses a conflict coach to find an amicable solution for all parties
The conflict coach plays an impartial role in each of the above scenarios. They aim to help people on both sides of the disagreement come to a resolution that suits as many people as possible.
Conflict coaching sessions in 7 steps
Conflict coaches usually take their clients through the same process, whether they’re dealing with divorce mediation, workplace disagreements, or a land dispute between two neighbors. Here’s how you can resolve a troubling situation:
- Establish a positive relationship and build trust: First, you should build a trusting relationship with clients. This requires excellent interpersonal and communication skills as well as a talent for active listening. Once your client trusts you, they are more likely to be honest about the situation and their role in it.
- Identify the client’s objectives for the coaching session: Sometimes, conflict coaching can feel like venting to a friend — especially if you listen to your clients properly. But this process isn’t just about airing grievances but resolving conflict. Therefore, you must help clients establish clear and realistic goals at the start of each session and keep them at the forefront of the discussion.
- Encourage the client to share their perspectives and emotions: Most people in a dispute feel they are the wronged party. They may be emotional and flustered when they begin the coaching process, and that’s fine. As a coach, you need to foster a positive environment where clients can openly voice their feelings without fearing judgment. This release helps clients look at the situation with newfound clarity, allowing them to make intelligent decisions that contribute to a resolution.
- Collaboratively explore and evaluate potential solutions: Once clients release their distress, anger, and other emotions surrounding the issue, work collaboratively to explore the next steps. Use tools like the conflict resolution styles assessment to help clients learn new skills to manage disagreements more effectively.
- Agree on specific actions for clients to undertake before the next session: Understanding emotions is only half the client’s journey toward resolution or reconciliation. They must also take action, which you help them decide. Also, help them set short-term goals to complete before the next session that moves everyone to a happy resolution.
- Continue to brainstorm and evaluate resolutions, considering input from other parties: The conflict coaching process doesn’t end when your client walks out the door. Remember, most conflicts involve multiple parties, and the coach must guide their clients toward a solution that satisfies everyone. Most coaches continue to brainstorm ideas after their sessions end for the day, using input from each client to find the most favorable outcome.
- Develop a concrete action plan with clients: Conflict coaching typically occurs over four or more sessions, but eventually, those sessions end. By this point, all parties should have a clear plan for resolving and preventing new issues. Ensure everyone understands their role in the resolution process, and help them practice new behaviors or habits to facilitate more positive interactions.
How to become a conflict coach
You’ll likely enjoy conflict coaching if you like helping people navigate tricky interpersonal situations. But before you can officially begin a career in conflict coaching, you may want to get some certification. Although earning a conflict coaching certification isn’t mandatory, several organizations offer them — including the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the International Association of Coaches (IAC). In fact, obtaining an accreditation ensures you’re a credible professional, helping your future clients trust your sessions and guidance.
Even if you don’t earn a certification, you’ll likely need some education and experience before taking your first conflict coaching job. Most entry-level conflict resolution jobs require an advanced degree (at least a master’s), and you’ll need to refine skills like communication, active listening, and impartiality. You’ll also want to work under another coach to gain experience before striking out independently. And once you’re ready to take on clients, launch your small business through a website and profiles on different social media accounts, building your network and marketing your new company simultaneously.
Learn more with Practice
Conflict management coaching is a fascinating and rewarding job. With each group of clients, you get to help people learn about their communication styles, understand other people’s perspectives, and resolve issues. This is vital work, as people’s relationships impact our emotional, mental, and even physical health.
You can begin your conflict coaching journey today and make a difference in the lives of others — and with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool at your side, managing your caseload will be quick, efficient, and easier than ever.