Dispute Resolution. Give Them An Opportunity to Save Face – But Show Them The Ammo!

A Common Sense 5-Step Approach to Resolving Disputes & Conflicts in a Win-Win Manner!

Pinterest Pin / Infographic: 5 common sense steps to resolving disputes & conflicts in a win-win manner!


At my first “real” job, after a very long and illustrious academic career, (Read more about me here: About Me) I worked for a sporting goods company that was transitioning into corporate fulfillment programs. The company belonged to a regional cooperative type organization that granted exclusive selling territories to each of the member businesses. At one point we were confronted with a problem where another member business was discovered to have made a few sales in our designated territory.

The owner of the company I worked for tasked me to resolving the situation. He had dealings with this other company in the past – and felt we would need to utilize the arbitration option provided for in the member agreement – or maybe even move for their expulsion from the group.

Expectation for a Resolution

Being new and naive (and having an education in both law & psychology) – I requested the opportunity to reach out to the other company with a letter. I wrote to them and used a format that I have used many times since. Here is the format I used.

  1. I brought the issue to their intention and how their actions were a direct and irrefutable violation of our agreement. I did this in very plain and direct fashion. I indicated the sales that had been made, the dates and the amounts of those sales.
  2. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity to save face. Here I gave them some respect for their long-standing reputation as a member of the organization and within their community. I expressed confidence that their wrongful action must have been the result of a mistake or oversight.
  3. I appealed to their sense of honor & integrity to make the situation right. Very simply, I gave them a reputation to live up to. I also respectfully requested a specific dollar amount that we felt constituted fair restitution.
  4. I showed them our ammo! Here I indicated, in detail, the actions we would be taking if I was wrong in assuming this incident was a mistake or oversight on their part. In this instance I also referred to the pertinent sections of the member agreement and the remedies they provided to us as well as the copies we had obtained evidencing the improper sales activities.
  5. I gave them a specific and definitive time-frame for which I expected a response & resolution to this matter. I wrapped up the correspondence by expressing my sincere desire and confidence that we would be able resolve this issue expeditiously and amicably. I stated that we would require a resolution in 10 business days – to ensure that this matter was treated with the urgency and attention it deserved.

While the owner of the company was impressed with my both my effort and letter – he had little confidence that my approach would yield a satisfactory outcome.

The Results Speak For Themselves – And They Say…

We sent the letter and waited…..

To the owner’s shock – in a matter of days we received a check, for the full amount requested, in response to my letter, and the situation was completely resolved.


Since then I have used the same approach in many other circumstances and disputes I have encountered in my life – with a very similar outcome. Taking the ego out of the equation (win – lose or I’m right – you’re wrong) and giving the other party an opportunity to save face really does work!

The focus needs to remain on the fact that the objective is to reach a resolution not to destroy the other party – or rub their face in the fresh dog poop… On the contrary – it is pretty easy to make the right choice when you get a good peek at the other party’s ample arsenal of nuclear tipped weapons…

This approach has served me very well over the years and I sincerely hope that my children will use a similar strategy that balances both strength & diplomacy to resolve disputes that they will face in their lives.



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Blessed father of 4 wonderful children & trophy husband to 1 lovely wife. Part-time blogger, full-time nerd & aspiring Renaissance man!

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  1. Very interesting post. I love the emphasis on resolution, rather than destroying the other. Perhaps you’ve heard of Nonviolent Communication? I’m just beginning to learn about it, but as a method of living and interacting compassionately (and with limited ego-input!), it’s something I’m attracted to. Sure it could be implemented in a business environment, too. Thanks again 🙂

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