Conflict Resolution Training:

If X...Then Y: How All Conflicts Are Resolved


All conflict, from “Who will pick up the kids at school?” through “How many nuclear missiles should be allowed?” is ultimately resolved based on “If X...Then Y”...(I’ll do this in exchange for you doing that), also called “quid pro quo.” Let me give you a very simple example:

My wife would ask me repeatedly to wipe the sink in the bathroom after I used it. She had to ask me repeatedly because sometimes I would remember and sometimes not.

One day my wife asked me, “Why won’t you wipe the sink?” to which I honestly responded, “I forget.”

My wife then used the “If X...The Y” formula to resolve this conflict. She said, “If I make it easy for you to remember (if X), will you wipe the sink every time you use it?” (then Y).

I thought about this for a moment, realizing what I might have to commit to. “Every time?” I asked.

“Every time,” she said.

I countered with my own “If X...Then Y:” “And if it’s not easy (if X), you won’t hold me to it, right?” (then Y).

“Right,” she agreed.

The next day, there was a package of baby wipes next to the sink and three signs strategically placed so that I couldn’t miss them reminding me of my commitment. I have kept my agreement every since.

This conflict involved only two people and was over a simple issue. Your conflicts may be more complex with multiple issues and many people involved.

But the resolution of the conflict will always be the same: “If I do this (X), will you do that (Y) in exchange?”