Resolution vs Solution | How to Properly Solve a Conflict

Resolution vs Solution

The first step to effectively solving a conflict is to understand the difference between a resolution and a solution. The conflict has a way of repeating itself over and over, especially if it is not addressed correctly and a firm decision has not been made.  Addressing a conflict correctly includes identifying the key differences between a solution and resolution and using this knowledge to move past the issues facing the parties at the moment to resolve all the underlying conflicts.  Conflict repeats itself most commonly because the underlying disagreement was not fully addressed and still colors the interactions between the parties, even if it is not acknowledged openly.  Conflict can only be resolved effectively if this underlying dispute is acknowledged and addressed fully by the parties.  Properly solving a conflict may take a long time and a lot of work, but on the other side of the uncomfortable conversation is the peace of never having to face that conflict again.  This article will explore the different understandings and definitions of resolution and solution and how these concepts can be used to solve a conflict completely.

Resolution vs Solution 

While a solution may be a helpful answer at the moment, a resolution should always be the goal between two or more parties who are facing a conflict. The terms solution and resolution may mean different things to different people and some may say they are synonyms; however, the most common understanding of the difference between solution and resolution is explained below.

  • Solution: A solution is an option to alleviate the problem at the current moment.  It looks only at the conflict as it applies to the present issue and how it is affecting the productivity of the parties toward their intended goal.  A solution will work to fix the issue so that the parties can keep working to complete their task, the goal is productivity, not the end of the conflict.
  • Resolution: A resolution will work through the various factors impacting the dispute to address the underlying issues that are affecting the parties.  When the parties are working to find a resolution they are identifying, acknowledging, and addressing the core of the issues that the parties are facing to avoid having the conflict come up again.  The goal of a resolution is to end the conflict so fully that it never comes up again.

When the difference between the terms is laid out, it is clear that the goal and result of the two processes are different.  This is why the goal of any problem-solving strategy should be a resolution, not just a solution.

Different Ways Individuals or Organizations Fix Issues:

With this understanding of the difference between a resolution and a solution, it is important to understand the different reactions and goals that people and organizations may have to the conflicts that they face.  To better understand how these reactions play out, it can be helpful to consider an example.  Imagine that Hannah and Clara work together as caterers.   They do all sizes of events, and they have recently become popular for weddings after a popular wedding planner recommended them on social media.  When they are doing large weddings, they often run into the same problem with their preparation—Clara, who trains the seasonal employees they have, forgets important information, which often leads to having to redo certain tasks.  Because of the popularity, they have to hire new staff frequently enough that almost all prep days have at least one new prep This leads to them staying up very late the night before a wedding to finish the details.  With the recent spike in bookings, this issue is coming up more frequently, and the paid has been fighting more frequently about the issue.  Using this example, we will explore the four reactions to conflict: absolution, solution, resolution, and dissolution.

  • Absolution: Absolution is the common initial reaction to a problem or conflict.  It is when the parties choose to ignore the issue and hope that it will resolve on its own.  Conflict is never exciting to address, so many people will choose to avoid the issue and continue to move forward.  In the example above, it would be common for Hannah and Clara to ignore the issue when it first starts happening.  The pair would stay up late to finish the task a few times without acknowledging the issue.
  • Solution: Because a solution is a short-term or temporary fix to the underlying issue, it will only solve the problem that is presenting itself at the moment.  For Hannah and Clara, a possible solution to the issue would be starting the process earlier the day before to ensure that even if it takes a long time to complete, it will not force them to stay up way too late and be overtired the next day.
  • Resolution: A resolution will address the underlying cause of the issue.  Here, this is that Clara frequently forgets to tell new staff information.  Clara expresses her frustration that they have been reactive rather than proactive in recent orders because they have not had time to plan effectively.  Because they realize the issue has to do with Clara not having a set and planned training schedule, they work together to create one.  This helps ensure that all the information is covered every time.
  • Dissolution: Dissolution is when the parties change the system dramatically to adapt to the issue and avoid it in later processes.  For Hannah and Clara, this step could happen by them creating a large hiring and training event at the beginning of the season to ensure that less on-the-job training needs to happen later on.  This redefines the process in a way that avoids the issue altogether.

Depending on the situation, a person or organization may adopt one or all of the options when they work to resolve a problem.  For many people, these reactions are steps in the process—absolution until it cannot be ignored, a solution until the conflict reappears repeatedly, a resolution to handle the underlying issues until the process is the flaw, and a dissolution to redefine the process moving forward.  While one reaction is not better than the other, resolution and eventual dissolution will ensure that the conflict is not an issue again.

How to Effectively Resolve a Problem:

Because a resolution that allows the parties to move on from a conflict is the goal, it is necessary to turn to effective strategies and steps that a person can take to resolve problems effectively.   Most of these steps and strategies require asking questions of oneself and the other side.  These questions include:

    • What is the exact problem? The first step in resolving a conflict is to identify the actual problem that is causing the conflict between the parties.  Much of what we may identify as the problem may just be the side effects of the problem.  When the parties can clearly state the problem, they can address it head-on.  This often includes working through the next question simultaneously.
    • Why is this conflict or problem happening? As the previous questions acknowledged, it can be difficult to identify the problem because many of the symptoms of the problem seem more pressing than the underlying conflict.  However, identifying this underlying conflict can help the parties understand the reasons that the conflict exists in the first place.
    • What obstacles does the problem present? Another key part of understanding the problem is to identify the obstacles that the problem presents to the task at hand.  This helps prepare for potential roadblocks and helps encourage the parties to fix the problem to avoid further stalling.
    • What can I control? The next step is identifying what aspects of the problem each person can control.  By understanding what one can control, we begin to identify the areas where each party could change their behavior to fix the problem.
    • What do I still need to know? Information is the best tool when it comes to solving problems.  The better the information that both parties have, the more effectively they can resolve the problem.  This includes analyzing the issues from all possible angles and views to find ways to better negotiate with each other.
    • What are some possible resolutions? The next step is to identify multiple resolutions that may help address the conflict.  Because we are looking for resolutions, these options should consider the root cause of the conflict and not just the immediate need.
    • Which resolution is best? Next, the parties will need to identify which of the offered resolutions is the best one for their issue and implement that resolution to solve the issue.
    • How is the resolution working? Even the best resolutions may not completely alleviate the issues that the parties are facing.  When a problem has been resolved, it is important to regularly check in and make sure that it is continuing to resolve the issue or if it needs to be adjusted.

Resolving conflicts is difficult to work, and most conflicts will not be as easily resolved as this step-by-step process makes it seem.  Conflict resolution involves processing difficult emotions and working together to change what is not working.  Parties may end up going through the process repeatedly to ensure that they continue to move forward.  Solutions and resolution help individuals and organizations move past conflict and increase productivity in the task in front of them and the future.

Emily Holland
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