Conflict management (quotes)


Conflict is a serious disagreement


Being right and wrong


Conflict and arguments occur when both parties are convinced they’re right

  • Argument: An exchange of words between people with diametrically opposed views, all of whom know that they are right.   Kevin Boddington
  • Most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.  James Robinson
  • I am very cautious of people who are absolutely right, especially when they are vehemently so. Michael Palin
  • There are two sides to every argument, unless a person is personally involved, in which case there is only one. Cutler Webster
  • Conflict occurs with two or more people who, despite their first attempts at agreement, do not yet have agreement on a course of action, usually because their values, perspectives and opinions are contradictory in nature. Carter McNamara, PhD
  • The need to be right

It is possible for both parties in an argument or quarrel to be wrong

  • When good people have a falling out, only one of them may be at fault at first; but if the strife continues long, usually both become guilty. Thomas Fuller
  • When two quarrel, both are in the wrong.
  • A long dispute means that both parties are wrong. Voltaire

It is also possible for both to be right

  • Whenever two good people argue over principles, they are both right. Marie von Ebner- Eschenbach
  • I have one major rule: everybody is right. More specifically, everybody – including me – has some important pieces of the truth, and all of those pieces need to be honored, cherished, and included in a more gracious, spacious, and compassionate embrace. Ken Wilber

Healthy verse unhealthy conflict


Unhealthy, heated conflict rarely solves anything and comes at a price

  • Two dogs strive for a bone, and a third runs away with it. Lao Tzu
  • You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist. Indira Gandhi
  • Most quarrels amplify a misunderstanding. Andre Gide
  • Heat and animosity, contest and conflict, may sharpen the wits, although they rarely do; they never strengthen the understanding, clear the perspicacity, guide the judgment, or improve the heart. Walter Savage Landor
  • In a heated argument, we lose sight of the truth. Publilius Syrus
  • The only thing a heated argument ever produced is coolness. American Proverb
  • If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will. Dale Carnegie
  • Arguments only confirm people in their own opinions. Booth Tarkington
  • Unhealthy conflict hampers productivity, lowers morale, causes more and continued conflicts and causes inappropriate behaviours.  Carter McNamara, PhD

On the other hand, conflict that is managed in a positive, healthy way can have benefits

  • Conflict is inevitable and often necessary when forming high-performing teams. Getting the most out of diversity often means addressing contradictory values, perspectives and opinions.   Healthy conflict helps to raise and address problems, helps people “be real” and motivates them to fully participate and helps people learn how to recognize and benefit from their differences.   Carter McNamara, PhD

How to defuse conflict


Conflict in life is inevitable, combat is optional

  • Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional. Max Lucade
  • It takes two to quarrel, but only one to end it. Spanish Proverb

Always remember that to disagree, you don’t need to be disagreeable

  • To disagree, one doesn’t have to be disagreeable. Barry Goldwater
  • In conflict, be fair and generous. Lao Tzu

Conflict requires your participation

  • Conflict cannot survive without your participation. Wayne Dyer
  • I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to. Bede Jarrett

Defuse conflict by adopting an open, loving attitude

  • Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude. William James
  • The purely agitation attitude is not good enough for a detailed consideration of a subject. Jawaharlal Nehru
  • Love

Defuse conflict by choosing to be kind over being right

  • A mistake made by many people with great convictions is that they will let nothing stand in the way of their views, not even kindness. Bryant McGill
  • I’d rather be happy than right.   Hugh Prather
  • Do you prefer that you be right, or that you be happy?  A Course in Miracles
  • Choose being kind over being right. The reason we are tempted to put others down is that our ego mistakenly believes that if we point out how someone else is wrong, we must be right and therefore we feel better. Richard Carlson
  • Attachment to being right creates suffering. When you have a choice to be right, or to be kind, choose kind and watch your suffering disappear. Wayne Dyer
  • Choose kindness over being right, and you’ll be right every time. Richard Carson
  • Why choose to be right instead of happy when there is no way to be right? Hugh Prather
  • If you have a choice between right or kind, choose kind. Wayne Dyer
  • Lose battles to win wars means consider letting go of your need to be right in favour of your bigger picture. Your big picture may include wanting a harmonious relationship, supporting your partner’s desires or creating a compassionate, warm and loving relationship. Clinton Power
  • Kindness

Defuse conflict by being loving

  • Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Differing opinions need not imply an absence of love. Milton R. Sapirstein
  • Love

Defuse contact by seeking to understand before being understood

  • Seek to understand the other person, whether you or the other person is bringing the conflict to light. How do their personal energies and styles differ from yours? What are their perspectives? What are their perceptions?   Gail Zack Anderson
  • Seek first to understand. Be more interested in understanding others and less in having other people understand you. Stephen Covey
  • In any conflict, we can defend ourselves or we can learn. Defense has made the world unlivable. What would happen if we chose to learn instead? Instead of saying, ‘You frighten me’, what if we said, ‘You interest me’?” Leslie Back
  • LoveUnderstanding

This requires a willingness to listen actively

  • Reflective listening demonstrates that we care enough to hear the other person out, rather than just focusing on our own point of view. It actually fosters empathy. Naomi Drew, M.A.
  • When the other person is trying to explain his or her perspective on a subject, force yourself to pay attention, and reaffirm that effort by paraphrasing what the person says. Carefully and thoughtfully rephrase their ideas aloud so that they know you hear what they say. Nathan Chandler
  • Try repeating the words that someone is saying to you. This mirroring technique can keep both the speaker and the listener ‘centered’ in a difficult conversation, especially when the attitude of the person doing the mirroring is to gain understanding of a different point of view. Clare Albright, Psy.D.
  • There’s power in the words “Yes, yes, I see exactly what you’re saying. You mean…….” This shows the other person you hear him/her. That’s all they usually want — to be validated. By agreeing with them, you gradually break down the other person’s anger.  Stephen Hopson
  • Hear one side and you will be in the dark. Hear both and all will be clear.  Thomas C. Haliburton
  • It takes a disciplined person to listen to convictions which are different from their own. Dorothy Fuldman
  • Learn to listen to the two sides of the conflict that you are in as if you were the mediator or the counselor. Clare Albright
  • Listen actively and remember that things are not always what they seem. Be ready to be open to the other person’s explanation. Sometimes, getting all the information from the right person changes the entire situation. Deb Peterson Psy.D.
  • Listening

Defuse conflict by being open to people’s opinions and points of view

  • Genuinely consider the other person’s point of view. Imagine yourself in his shoes. Never say “you’re wrong.” In fact, try hard to look for areas of agreement and build on them. Stephen Hopson
  • The next time you find yourself in an argument, rather than defend yourself, see if you can see the other point of view first. Richard Carlson
  • That is why from the beginning it’s really important that you learn to shift perspectives. That alone is going to help tremendously in your life. Just imagine the next time you get into an argument with your partner or spouse, and you are able to let go of your view and open up to the possibility that there might just be another perspective on the situation—her view, or his view. The moment you do that, it sets you free. Genpo Roshi
  • In all tests of character, when two viewpoints are pitted against one another, in the final analysis the thing that will strike you the most, is not who was right or wrong, strong or weak, wise or foolish…. but who would go to the greatest lengths in considering the other’s perspective. Mike Dooley
  • Opinions are made to be changed or how is truth to be got at? Lord Byron
  • When you understand and are comfortable with yourself, it becomes easier to open yourself to the ideas of others. Stephen Covey
  • Many of the “truths” you cling to are simply a result of one point of view—yours. Stephen Covey
  • A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.  Frank Zappa
  • It does take great maturity to understand that the opinion we are arguing for is merely the hypothesis we favor, necessarily imperfect, probably transitory, which only very limited minds can declare to be a certainty or a truth. Milan Kundera, Encounter
  • The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new. Pema Chodron
  • Do not think of knocking out another person’s brains because he differs in opinion from you. It would be as rational to knock yourself on the head because you differ from yourself ten years ago. Horace Mann
  • When you let someone else win an argument, often you both end up winners. Richard Carlson
  • There are no facts, only interpretations. Friedrich Nietzsche
  • The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress. Joseph Joubert
  • Spend less time worrying who’s right, and more time deciding what’s right. Jackson Brown Jr.
  • If you come at me with your fists doubled, I think I can promise you that mine will double as fast as yours; but if you come to me and say, “Let us sit down and take counsel together, and if we differ from each other, understand why it is that we differ, just what the points at issue are,” we will presently find that we are not so far apart after all, that the points on which we agree are many, and that if we only have the patience and the candor and the desire to get together, we will get together. Woodrow Wilson
  • OpinionOpen-mindedness

Realise that differing views can be most valuable

  • If two men on the same job agree all the time, then one is useless. If they disagree all the time, both are useless. Darryl F. Zanuck
  • I never learned from a man who agreed with me.   Robert A. Heinlein
  • We owe almost all our knowledge not to those who have agreed but to those who have differed. Charles Caleb Colton
  • Synergy is celebrating differences, teamwork, open-mindedness, and finding new and better ways together. Synergy means you can literally produce something with another person that neither of you could have produced   Stephen Covey
  • Greetings, I am pleased to see that we are different. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us. Vulcan greeting
  • Diversity

Remain calm in a conflict, even if the other person loses their temper

  • Be calm. Conflict usually engenders strong emotions and even anger but, in such a state, you are unlikely to be particularly rational or in the mood for compromise. Roger Darlington
  • Conflicts can’t be solved in the face of hot emotions. Take a step back, breathe deep, and gain some emotional distance before trying to talk things out. Naomi Drew, M.A.
  • Why do people always assume that volume will succeed when logic won’t?  J. Smith
  • You can’t fight fire with fire. Don’t spew hostile words at those who spew them at you.  Tone it down and replace the stink of confrontation with the fragrance of resolution. The louder the opposition wants to yell, the calmer and more confidently you need to speak.  Keep your composure; don’t let them get to you.  Marc and Angel Chernoff
  • Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret. Laurence J. Pete
  • Very often in everyday life one sees that by losing one’s temper with someone who has already lost his, one does not gain anything but only sets out upon the path of stupidity. He who has enough self- control to stand firm at the moment when the other person is in a temper, wins in the end. It is not he who has spoken a hundred words aloud who has won; it is he who has perhaps spoken only one word. Hazrat Inayat Khan
  • In a heated argument, we are apt to lose sight of the truth. Publilius Syrus
  • If you go in for argument, take care of your temper. Your logic, if you have any, will take care of itself. Joseph Farrell
  • But curb thou the high spirit in thy breast, for gentle ways are best, and keep aloof from sharp contentions. Homer
  • Keep cool; anger is not an argument. Daniel Webster
  • When an arguer argues dispassionately he thinks only of the argument. Virginia Woolf
  • We are not won by arguments that we can analyse, but by tone and temper; by the manner, which is the man himself. Louis D. Brandeis
  • In a verbal confrontation, lower your voice to the degree that the other person raises his or hers. Jackson Brown, Jr
  • Calmness

When provoked, give yourself some time to cool down before responding

  • Wait a few days to cool down emotionally when a situation makes you feel wild with intense feelings, such as rage.  As time passes, you will be able to be more objective about the issues and to sort out the truth about the situation more clearly. Clare Albright, Psy.D.
  • Give yourself an hour to cool off before responding to someone who has provoked you. If it involves something really important, give yourself overnight. Jackson Brown Jr.

If someone loses their temper and gets nasty, it’s often best to walk away

  • When people get nasty with you, it’s usually best to walk away.
  • If the other party is clearly making personal attacks on you, it’s best to walk away from the situation. Nathan Chandler
  • If the situation turns verbally abusive, put a stop to it. Firmly but calmly state: “You’re very angry right now and you’re saying things you don’t mean (give them the benefit of the doubt). I’m going to excuse myself. We can talk again after you calm down.” Then leave the room or ask them to leave.  Stephen Hopson

Resolving conflict


Always resolve conflicts face to face if possible

  • Talk directly to the person you need to talk with. Don’t go around them. Don’t talk about them. Don’t email them. Talk to them face to face if possible, or on the phone if necessary.   Gail Zack Anderson
  • Share negative emotions only in person or on the phone. E-mails, answering machine messages, and notes are too impersonal for the delicate nature of negative words. Clare Albright, Psy.D.

Acknowledge feelings

  • Nine times out of 10, the real conflict is about feelings, not facts. You can argue about facts all day, but everyone has a right to his or her own feelings. Owning your own feelings, and caring about others’, is key to talking about conflict. It’s critical here to use “I” statements. Instead of saying, “You make me so angry,” try something like, “I feel really frustrated when you…” Deb Peterson
  • Take responsibility for your feelings to avoid blaming others.  Notice when ‘blameshifting’ begins to leak into your speech. “I feel angry when you are twenty minutes late and you don’t call me” is much better than, “You make me so mad by being late.”   Clare Albright, Psy.D.
  • AcknowledgementEmotions

Find a solution together and agree on a plan of action

  • Brainstorm solutions and come up with one that satisfies you both. Resolving conflicts is a creative act. There are many solutions to a single problem. The key is a willingness to seek compromises.  Roger Darlington
  • Ask the other party for his or her ideas for solving the problem. The person is responsible for his or her own behaviour and has the ability to change it. Resolving conflict is not about changing another person. Change is up to each individual. Deb Peterson
  • Say what you will do differently in the future and ask the other party to verbalize his or her commitment to change in the future. Deb Peterson
  • Brainstorm new ideas. Find five possible solutions to the problem. Don’t judge or criticize the suggestions of your spouse. Discuss and evaluate each of these solutions, being as objective as you can. Talk about how each solution might be useful and appropriate in resolving the issue.  Finally, in the spirit of cooperation, select one solution that both of you are willing to try. Make sure there is “buy-in” from both partners.  Ron Moore
  • Problem solving,  Action plans

More tips for resolving conflicts

  • Don’t Wait. The sooner you resolve conflict, the easier it is to resolve. Don’t wait. Don’t let the matter boil into something bigger than it is.  Deb Peterson
  • When you are bringing up an issue or problem, be sure to also bring ideas for a solution. Don’t just bring up issues to get them off your chest or to complain.  Gail Zack Anderson
  • To start a difficult conversation the right way, it’s important for you and your coworker to identify something you agree on. This may be a common goal or a set of operating rules that you consent to. Amy Gallo
  • Always show respect. However much you disagree with someone, attack the argument, not the person. To use a sporting metaphor: play the ball, not the man. As Nelson Mandela explained in his autobiography “Long Walk To Freedom”: “I defeated my opponents without dishonouring them”.  Roger Darlington
  • Apply rationality. Much conflict is not about substance but perception. Try to clear through the perception to discover and agree on how things really are. You won’t manage this without discussion and you may need to research the facts and seek evidence.  Roger Darlington
  • Select one important issue you would like to resolve. This may be the first point of contention, but you have to agree on ONE issue. Conflict resolution is a one-at-a-time exercise.   Ron Moore
  • How do each of you contribute to the problem? Without blaming each other, list the things each of you do that have not helped resolve the problem.   Ron Moore

Discuss rather than argue


Avoid arguments whenever you can …

  • I have come to the conclusion that there is only one way under high heaven to get the best of an argument— and that is to avoid it. Avoid it as you would avoid rattlesnakes and earthquakes. Dale Carnegie
  • The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. Dale Carnegie
  • I have to go. I have a finite amount of life left and I don’t want to spend it arguing with you. Jennifer Armintrout
  • Sometimes you win the battle by simply choosing not to fight it. LaTonya Tarell
  • Most quarrels amplify a misunderstanding. Andre Gide

… especially with a fool

  • Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.  Mark Twain
  • When you’re arguing with a fool, make sure he isn’t doing the same thing.
  • I never make the mistake of arguing with people for whose opinions I have no respect. Edward Gibbon
  • Arguing with a fool only proves that there are two.
  • Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience. Mark Twain
  • The soundest argument will produce no more conviction in an empty head than the most superficial declamation; a feather and a guinea fall with equal velocity in a vacuum. Charles Caleb Colton
  • Never contend with one that is foolish, proud, positive, testy, or with a superior, or a clown, in matter of argument. Thomas Fuller
  • StupidityFoolishness

Discussing and exploring ideas tends to be far more fruitful than arguing

  • Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance. Robert Quillen
  • Argument is the worst sort of conversation. Jonathan Swift
  • A discussion should be a genuine attempt to explore a subject rather than a battle between competing egos. Edward De Bono
  • The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion. K. Chesterton
  • The best argument is that which seems merely an explanation. Dale Carnegie
  • ExplorationIdeasExplore new ideas

There are often more effective ways to convince someone of something than arguing

  • Any fact is better established by two or three good testimonies than by a thousand arguments. Nathaniel Emmons
  • People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument. Will Rogers
  • An ounce of wit is worth a pound of argument. Sydney Smith
  • Anecdotes are sometimes the best vehicles of truth, and if striking and appropriate, are often more impressive and powerful than argument. Tryon Edwards
  • Man is most happy, when his own actions are arguments and examples of his virtue.  John Webster
  • Persuasion

If an argument is necessary, here are some tips for doing it effectively

  • The difficult part in an argument is not to defend one’s opinion but rather to know it. André Maurois
  • Nothing so sharpens the thought process as writing down one’s arguments. Weaknesses overlooked in oral discussion become painfully obvious on the written page. Hyman G. Rickover
  • When I’m getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say — and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.  Abraham Lincoln
  • Put the argument into a concrete shape, into an image, some hard phrase, round and solid as a ball, which they can see and handle and carry home with them, and the cause is half won.  Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Be able to defend your arguments in a rational way. Otherwise, all you have is an opinion.  Marilyn vos Savant
  • The best way I know of to win an argument is to start by being in the right.  Lord Quintin Hogg Hailsham

Always leave your opponent an escape hatch

  • You must not, when you have gained a victory, use any triumphing or insulting expression, nor show too much pleasure; but endeavour to console your adversary, and make him less dissatisfied with himself by every kind and civil expression, that may be. Benjamin Franklin
  • The most important tactic in an argument next to being right is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without an embarrassing loss of face. Stephen Jay Gould

Shouting never strengthens an argument

  • We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another – until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices. Richard M. Nixon
  • Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument. Desmond Tutu
  • Don’t think that shouting strengthens your argument. Iain Pears
  • Use soft words and hard arguments. English Proverb
  • Soft words are hard arguments. Thomas Fuller
  • He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak. Michel Eyquem De Michel de Montaigne
  • Soft words win hard hearts. Proverb

Strong, bitter words and insults almost always indicate a weak argument

  • Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause. Victor Hugo
  • When a man uses profanity to support an argument, it indicates that either the man or the argument is weak – probably both.
  • He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak. Michel de Montaigne
  • Anger is never without an argument, but seldom with a good one. Indira Gandhi
  • Insults are the arguments employed by those who are in the wrong. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Neither irony or sarcasm is argument. Samuel Butler
  • When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff. Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • ResentmentRight speech

Heated arguments are often characterised by ignorance and poor understanding

  • It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them. Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
  • The less people know, the more they yell. Seth Godin
  • It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument. William G. McAdoo
  • People who know the least always argue the most.
  • Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding. Samuel Johnson
  • Ignorance

Backing off from conflict


Sometimes silence is the best policy

  • Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute. Josh Billings
  • When an argument flares up, the wise man quenches it with silence.
  • It is more noble by silence to avoid an injury than by argument to overcome it. Francis Beaumont
  • Silence is argument carried out by other means. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara
  • Silence

Realise that some battles are not worth fighting

  • Those who know when to fight and when not to fight are victorious. Sun Tzu
  • Knowing when to fight is just as important as knowing how. Terry Goodkind
  • Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win. Jonathan Kozol
  • Life as a battle

Conflict and violence


Always choose peaceful alternatives to physical force and violence

  • It is the great sadness of our species that we have not found a way to eliminate the conflict and to eliminate violence as a device to resolve our conflicts throughout the entire history of the human race. Neale Donald Walsch
  • Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict — alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence. Dorothy Thompson
  • May we all choose peaceful options to conflict. Donzella Michele Malone
  • The alternative to violence is dialogue. Marshall McLuhan
  • Violence

Striking a blow is a sure sign you’ve lost an argument

  • He who strikes the first blow admits he’s lost the argument. Chinese Proverb

Final thoughts


Realise that sometimes reason will not work in an argument

  • You cannot reason people out of a position that they did not reason themselves into. Ben Goldacre
  • There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear discussion. Lord Acton
  • Prejudice, not being founded on reason, cannot be removed by argument. Samuel Johnson
  • Prejudices are rarely overcome by argument; not being founded in reason they cannot be destroyed by logic. Tryon Edwards
  • Reason

Sometimes the people on your side can harm your cause

  • No matter what side of the argument you are on, you always find people on your side that you wish were on the other. Jascha Heifetz
  • There’s nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view that I hold dear. Daniel Dennett
  • The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments. Friedrich Nietzsche

The greatest conflict is sometimes with oneself

  • It was completely fruitless to quarrel with the world, whereas the quarrel with oneself was occasionally fruitful and always, she had to admit, interesting. Sarton May
  • The greatest conflicts are not between two people but between one person and himself. Garth Brooks
  • To set up what you like against what you dislike, this is the disease of the mind. Sengcan

On a lighter note

  • I did not marry the first girl that I fell in love with, because there was a tremendous religious conflict, at the time. She was an atheist, and I was an agnostic.  Woody Allen
  • Impartial :  someone who has nothing to gain from siding with either party in a conflict.  Ambrose Bierce
  • Seems to me the basic conflict between men and women, sexually, is that men are like firemen. To men, sex is an emergency, and no matter what we’re doing we can be ready in two minutes. Women, on the other hand, are like fire. They’re very exciting, but the conditions have to be exactly right for it to occur.  Jerry Seinfeld