Conflict management unlimited

This is a recent question posed to the Conflict Doctor.

Question posed: I’m considering becoming a Conflict Manager, but I’ve had an unusual, technical career. In your opinion, yes or no, can someone transition from focus on hard skills to soft skills?

Answer: Short answer: yes, and I’ve written tips to kickstart a Conflict Management career. Long answer: maybe; it depends on your openness to Conflict Management (CM) changing your thinking and expanding your outlook. The flashing warning light comes from the words you chose for your question. Words reveal worldviews.

Your question is framed with what’s called dichotomous thinking, and binary thinking. That is, something is either X or it’s Y, either yes or no, either hard or soft, either black or white. CM training will cure you of limiting your options.

Conflict happens anywhere and anything can spawn people getting locked into “either you’re right or I am and we can’t both be.” If the Conflict Manager also thinks in either/or terms that conflict will have a long life.

yes or no – not

Tip 1: When given either/or binaries, request more, other, creative options. Advocate for bigger, generative, thinking.


Conflict is a complex adaptive systemwhich means each conflict is different, every relationship is unique, and all outcomes are unpredictable. CM brings out your adaptability.

I began as a binary thinker. My world improved when CM training enhanced my problem-solving, critical thinking and communication skills. My 25+ years as a professional, full time Conflict Manager is a job and it’s my worldview.

Tip 2: CM is a career, survival technique, life skills, leadership attributes, and family functioning tools. CM skills improve relationships, at home, at work, in sports, on teams, and for extracurricular and volunteer activities. No limits on uses, no permission needed.


Tip 3: Read studies of top skills for success in the 21st century and you’ll find conflict management. As you abandon either/or thinking, you’ll find managing conflict isn’t only a soft skill. CM can be taught, quantified, analyzed and evaluated like any hard skill, and is quicksand for teaching, quantifying, analysis and evaluation like any soft skill.

CM shifts between hard and soft over time and circumstances. Successful Conflict Managers follow, flexibly and resiliently.

Ice and water, hard and soft. Which is the real form of H2O?


Tip 4. Transition to Conflict Management through (a) accessibility; (b) being liked; and, (c) creating trust.

Conflict Management jobs aren’t always advertised. Think strategically about what you’ve accomplished and what job you’d like. Create that job. My early paid contracts arose from getting known, proposing work I could do, and being accessible.

Being ‘liked’ means Conflict Management is a personal service so people have to be comfortable with you. Clients hire Conflict Managers who are honest, with courage to stand up for the process, personable (soft skill stuff), and competent (hard skill stuff).

Trust, whether in your doctor, spouse, or mediator, is one of the key characteristics for success in conflict and relationships.


Tip 5. An usual career grants the advantage of insight into unique situations. Assess your experiences, build on what you’ve done (hard skill stuff), and network contacts (soft skill stuff). You win in life from the training because every 21st Century job benefits from (so-called) soft skills. Plus, your advantage of knowing (so-called) hard skills.

Final word to Yoda: Do or do not. There is no try. 

There’s no downside to being more conflict competent.


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