Dr. Dean C. Bellavia



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Resolving Conflict

Sunday, 22 April 2018 10:04
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Do you have difficulty resolving conflict with your team?  Do you have difficulty resolving conflict with your patients?  Do you have difficulty resolving conflict in general?  Maybe this pearl can help.


In every situation you have a goal for being involved; otherwise, why are you involved?  Sometimes problems—that must be resolved—get in the way of attaining that goal.  The best way to resolve a problem is to look at the various solutions, consider the pros & cons of each solution and then choose the best (although not perfect) one to best attain that goal.  For example, a patient is supposed to pay for the treatment they receive—if they don’t pay there’s a problem.  The solution may be to contact them and 1) obtain the payment in full; 2) refinance their account; or 3) finish their treatment and sue them.  There are pros & cons to each solution and depending on the patient, one solution is chosen that is agreeable to both the practice and the guarantor (except maybe solution 3).


But some problems are difficult to resolve because emotions flare up and rational thinking takes a back seat—this is where conflict arises.  For example, your financial coordinator may be upset because she has been trying to get in touch with the guarantor who avoids her or who agrees to make payments that are not made.  Or the patient/guarantor may be upset because the treatment is not going as well as they feel it should and feel ignored or unheard—we all need to be heard.


To be heard, we have to also listen, which is not easy to do during a conflict situation.  When listening, it is probably best if you are the first to do the listening:

1)  Look at that person’s eyes and intently listen to what he or she is saying; don’t look away

2)  Ignore every thought that comes to mind and re-focus on what he/she is saying

3)  Do this as long as they speak and don’t even think about responding

4)  When they obviously stop speaking (usually after repeating themselves) they will stop

5)  Since you intently heard them out, they will now listen to what you have to say


Unfortunately, rational listening is impossible when we are angry, which shuts off our rational brain.  And when angry, we only use our director style, which motivates us to believe: "only my opinions are valid, not yours", and; "only my concerns matter, not yours".  This makes it impossible to listen to the other person since what they have to say is irrelevant.  Anger can elevate into rage, especially when the conflict is between family members, causing a screaming match and statements we later wish we had never said.  To get past this anger/rage we need to:

1)  Realize that we are emotionally out of control (the screaming is a good indicator)

2)  Stop thinking and take 2 or 3 deep breaths to allow the anger to subside

3)  Realize that we are hurting someone we care about

4)  Apologize for being angry and hope the other person does too

5)  Restart the discussion with a problem-solving, win-win attitude

6)  When done give each other a big hug—allow yourself to enjoy your oxytocin rush and feel love


Once you have taken the emotion out of the situation and each have been heard, you can approach it as a problem-solving situation by considering specific solutions with their pros and cons and mutually choose the best solution.  The chosen solution must involve compromise by both parties or else emotions will flare up again and turn a problem-solving situation into another conflict resolution situation—so be careful.


When dealing with patients don’t forget that the treatment needs of the patient (not the family, guarantor or practice) are paramount in every situation—you will probably need to compromise more than they do to do what is best for the patient.


When resolving conflict with your team, family members or anyone important to you, use the same approach of LISTENING INTENTLY to them, then giving your side, then looking at the possible solutions with their pros and cons and finally compromising.  Try it, you'll love it!

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