Managing Conflict: Ideas and models to consider

Helping people manage conflict positively using coaching is one of the most requested services from ConsultEast. When you are in conflict with someone else there is a potential for an adrenaline fueled flight or fight response, which rarely leads to a positive outcome.

Slowing down responses, and increasing self-awareness of your own resourcefulness, can be really helpful in regaining control and moving towards resolution.

As with mindfulness, being in the present moment can really help create a more positive place to start any conflict resolution. There are lots of styles to approach conflict and moving your way through all of them can give you both advantages and problems. 


The optimum style for resolving conflict is arguably collaboration. Collaboration is the win – win outcome, which is more likely to result in a long-term solution which, with maintenance, is more sustainable. Collaboration is more easily said than done.

Achieving collaboration takes transformation in attitude; coaching helps to challenge existing attitudes, beliefs, roles and perceptions of responsibility in order to achieve that way of working.

One NLP technique to challenge perception is called perceptual positioning. Based on a Gestalt idea called the Meta mirror this gives the coachee an opportunity to look at what another person’s perception may look and feel like. Its also a way in which we can start to stand back and look at both sides of a conflict in order to learn more about it and in this way add greater insight to finding a way forward.

It is worth looking at other 2 key models that can help increase our understanding of characteristic positions that people may adopt in interacting with each other. Karpman (1968) offered the drama triangle model that seems to trigger certain sorts of behaviours outside our awareness almost on a programmed response. The positions of Victim, Perpetrator and Rescuer are played out through our behaviours, feelings, actions and the stories we tell ourselves and others. We often take these positions unconsciously so do not even realize we are doing it. Self awareness helps us make choices about the roles we play and how this helps or hinders us.

Coaching triggers self awareness as we have the opportunity to listen to ourselves again through the active listening skills of the coach. The coachee gets the chance to listen to himself or herself perhaps for the first time and reflect what role they really want to play.

Coaching provides challenge to re think and identifymore helpful roles. To counter the Drama Triangle there is what is known as the Winners Triangle (Napper and Newton 2000) The coach can use this Winners triangle to challenge behaviours, feelings and narrative through exploration of the model and the resulting reflections to enable a solution and way forward.

Based on an interpretation of   Napper & Newton, 2000

Based on an interpretation of Napper & Newton, 2000

The winners triangle offers a way out of the misery of the drama triangle and at the same time develops key leadership and management skills of active listening, challenging unhelpful beliefs, positive feedback, skills in genuinely valuing people in order to grow them to be their best selves within that team and that organization.

The winners triangle encourages managers to reflect on being proactive, responsible and be able to voice reflections in order to manage others more powerfully.

If you would like to find out more about how coaching approaches can reduce the costs of conflict in your organization contact Rachel on 07789 511715 or email

Karpman, S. (1968). Fairy tales and script drama analysis. Transactional Analysis Bulletin, 7(26), 39-43

Napper, R., & Newton, T. (2000). TACTICS for adult learning. Ipswich: TA Resources.