At dinner with my friend Susan recently, I was struck by the simplicity of her conflict resolution strategy. A friend sought Susan's advice about how to approach her neighbor about a potential conflict. The neighbor was prickly and the friend uneasy, and she asked Susan to come along as support for the conversation.

Susan wisely said no, this was not her conflict. She also rightly perceived that approaching the neighbor together might look a bit like ganging up.

Not wanting to leave her friend hanging, she suggested the following three-part strategy to get the conversation off to a positive start.

  1. Bring a coffee cake.
  2. Knock on the door, present the cake, and ask the neighbor to put on a pot of coffee.
  3. Ask if they might sit down and talk.

I was taken by the simplicity of this approach. Food. Always a heart-warmer. Coffee cake brings back childhood visits to relatives when Mom always brought something sweet to whomever we were visiting (she still does). It felt so friendly. A peace offering of sorts.

As Susan had hoped, the gesture opened the door for her friend. The neighbor was touched by the thought, put on the coffee, and the two talked, listened and resolved what might otherwise have been a difficult issue.

If coffee cake isn't your cup of tea, what gesture creates a similar tone of mutuality, respect, and openness? Maybe it's not what's in your hand but in your heart that counts.

As for me, I am definitely adding it to my repertoire. I teach and coach people for a living, offering constructive strategies for transforming conflict into useful energy, communicating safely, and improving relationships. And I am open to all the ways there.

Make this moment a Ki Moment.

Author's Bio: 

Judy Ringer is the author of Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict and the award-winning e-zine, Ki Moments. 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