One challenge I see when people attempt to address a conflict is the desire to ignore or minimize the emotional side of it. They attempt to persuade the other party with logic, data, and reason when the other person just wants to be heard and understood.
I have been guilty of this error myself. A few years ago, my wife and I were discussing a situation she was experiencing with another person. In the course of her description of the problem to me, she began to discuss what she and the other person were feeling about the situation. I calmly stated something to this effect, “Let’s put emotions aside and look at this rationally.” She immediately responded, “Did you hear yourself? You just asked me to put aside emotions in discussing an emotional topic.” Her comment hit me squarely in the face. I was ignoring emotions even though the topic was emotions.
In addressing a conflict situation, always remember that factual and substantive issues are typically not the problem. Emotions usually are. Give people a chance to vent their emotions. Make every effort to make sure that they feel understood, and you will go a long way towards resolving the conflict. There is no guarantee that letting the other person “talk themselves out” will move you towards resolution. It just works better than trying to put a lid on someone else’s feelings. (A good book on this topic is Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate)
Just some food for thought.