I received a hopeful inquiry from a visitor to my Website recently:

This is a common question with coaching clients and in workshops. What if I'm the only one who wants to resolve the conflict? While I have written on this topic in past posts, I think the question deserves more attention.

What if they don't care about resolving the conflict?
If you're entering a conflict conversation believing this, it will be difficult to gain traction. More than any other element, your attitude does the heavy lifting in determining how the conversation goes.

You can't change the unwilling person, only yourself.
You can't make them curious, open, or self-disclosing. You can't make them care. However, if you remain centered, curious, and open, you may find the other person changes of their own accord. Your positive outlook is an invitation that's hard to refuse. Your openness creates space for something new to emerge from the relationship.

5 Additional Tips
#1: Look for the person who wants to resolve the conflict. When we are in conflict with someone, we only see one part of that person--the part we don't like or have difficulty with. This person has many selves, just like you. Find the one that might want to end the difficulty and invite that person to the conversation.

#2: Choose a purpose for the conversation that might appeal to the other person: "I'd like to talk with
you about something that might help us work together better / get along better / resolve this issue / be friends again." What would help this person come to the table? What might help him/her get on board?

#3: Look at the situation from the other person's point of view. How many of us know this already? How many times do we suggest it, teach it, and demonstrate it to clients, friends and others in conflict? And how difficult it is to do when the conflict is ours! When you are puzzled and frustrated by your partner's resistance, instead of viewing him/her as stubborn or irrational, understand there's an emotional process going on for them. As long as they are struggling with this process, it will be hard for them to change. Investigate, name, or give the process time to unwind.

#4: Acknowledge the resistance. There may be some resistance in you as well that you aren't even aware of. Your need to have the conflict resolved, for instance, can be felt as a kind of pressure by your partner. Sometimes leaving the conflict alone for awhile will relieve the pressure and make it possible for your partner to step forward into the opening. You can do this with a statement such as, "I'm going to let this conversation (issue, conflict, problem) be for a while. I think I'm adding pressure and I don't want to do that. Please know that I would like to resolve things with you and am open to talking whenever you want."
#5: Continue to be cordial, respectful and engaged, holding the vision that the two of you will work things through. See the future with the problem resolved.

Additional Resources for Holding Conversations With Difficult Partners
My Website contains many articles on this topic. If you want further support, visit:
• Frequently Asked Questions About Aikido, Centering, Conflict and Communication
• Tips and Strategies for Workplace Conflict
• Difficult People: 3 Questions To Turn Your Tormentors Into Teachers

Author's Bio: 

Judy Ringer is the author of Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict (http://www.unlikelyteachersbook.com) and the award-winning e-zine, Ki Moments, containing stories and practices on turning life's challenges into life teachers. Judy is a black belt in aikido and nationally known presenter, specializing in unique workshops on conflict, communication, and creating a positive work environment. She is the founder of Power & Presence Training and chief instructor of Portsmouth Aikido, Portsmouth, NH, USA. To sign up for more free tips and articles like these, visit http://www.JudyRinger.com