Rule #1: Listen. Try to understand the other persons point of view and put yourself in their position. If you don't know exactly what is going on then ask questions and gather information. Try not to come off in a way that will make the other person defensive. Instead seek to understand. Really go in with the attitude that you want to be as knowledgeable as possible about the situation.
Rule #2: Don't be too quick to react. Sometimes it feels good to get that first jab in and it may even momentarily give us a slight advantage, but chances are it's not the right move. Before you pick up the phone to chew someone out or go on the attack give yourself time to calm down and assess the situation. This problem probably took some time to build up and it will also take time to resolve. Don't react too quickly especially if you are angry. Take a walk, exercise, sleep or do whatever it takes to cool down.
Rule #3: Create a win-win resolution. This can be the most challenging thing we do when resolving conflict. Let's face it we want to win. If that means the other person loses then it's clear that we succeeded. However, there is a way to win that is not to the other persons detriment and it can really ease tensions in the future with that person. Use your problem-solving skills, get creative and find a way that you can both win in the situation. It may take more time or effort, but there is always a way to create a win-win.
Rule #4: Emulate someone who has it together. We can learn so much by watching how others handle situations. We have all seen the mother in the grocery store who is screaming at her kids or even getting physical with them. It's uncomfortable and we know that there is probably a better way to handle the situation. On the flip side, we can probably all think of a person who has handled conflict really well and that should be our focus. What did they do that made things better? How did they carry themselves? What was the resolution? Find these people and adopt some of their techniques.
See how Justin Timberlake handles a fan who "flips him the bird" at one of his concerts. He uses humor to diffuse the situation and easily gets the crowd on his side. What if he would have gotten angry or even humiliated the fan? The whole concert would have had a different dynamic.
With all of this said, it's not about judging others or being overly concerned with how people view you. When you handle a tough situation gracefully you reduce stress in your life and you feel really good about it. We all run into difficult scenarios in our lives and there will be times when we make mistakes and don't handle things very well at all. The situation may continue to rear it's ugly head unless we deal with it. By following the rules above we are better equipped to resolve conflict in a way that will eliminate it for good and make each party better off than they were before. What situations are you dealing with? What are you doing to handle them?