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Recently, a colleague asked whether I think my clients want to resolve or solve things when they come for conflict management coaching. I found that a very interesting question and pondered about the differences and how they show up. And then, I thought more about what I would say in response to the question. I would say that most of my clients want both solution and resolution but, mostly resolution.

The main difference between solve and resolve, according to one source, is that solve usually refers to the process of finding a correct answer to the problem. Resolve refers to bringing the problem to an end or conclusion. There is no set answer for resolving a problem, but there is for solving a problem. This is an important distinction to consider especially when two people dispute about their differing views about what they want to have happen – solve, resolve or both. I am thinking it’s worth exploring with my clients what is most important to them and why.

As I thought about this further I realize when we are involved in an interpersonal dispute it isn’t necessarily straightforward to distinguish whether both of us want to revolve things or solve the issues or both. It may be that one of us wants to solve things and the other to resolve them – whether or not the issues are solved. That is, for some, the best case scenario might be that the problem ends and being solved isn’t as important as the dissension ending (even though the issues remain unresolved). For instance, we could agree to disagree, or conclude there isn’t a mutually satisfactory solution. We might decide the problem isn’t serious enough to warrant continuing debate and hard feelings that appear to be irreconcilable. We may decide to relent to the solution the other person wants and figure out a way to have some inner reconciliation to be able to move on and so on.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider an interpersonal dispute – one about which you are aware one of you  wants resolution and the other wants solution.

  • What is the dispute about?
  • What are the main issues in dispute?
  • What do you want as an outcome?
  • What is preferable for you – to solve or resolve or to both solve and resolve this dispute?
  • Why do you want to solve it or why do you want to resolve it? Or, why do you want to both solve and resolve the dispute?If you want the issues solved and resolved what would a good resolution be in your view?
  • What might the other person say the main issues in dispute are from their perspective?
  • Which do you suppose that person is aiming for – to solve or resolve things? Or, solve and resolve? Why do you say that (your answer here)?
  • What might the other person view as a way to resolve things?
  • Where are the two of you farthest part when it comes to solving and resolving things? Where are the two of you closest?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have now that you didn’t have before you answered these questions?

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