Office Set-Up: Setting the Stage for Conflict Resolution


When thinking about resolving conflict, it is important to take into consideration the physical space. Subtle things like furniture arrangement and the color of walls can impact on the successful outcome of a conflict situation. Studies have shown that men, when faced head-on feel challenged. They are most comfortable discussing difficult topics when seated side-by-side. Women, on the other hand, often prefer to look directly at someone while speaking. Consider how your space is arranged when scheduling a meeting to discuss a difficult topic or to conduct a negotiation. Sitting at a conference table often implies power for the person at the head of the table (something that can discourage empathy, trust, and cooperation) and forces the "opponents" to "face-off." Many mediators set their chairs in a triangle formation or a circle. This ideally allows each person to turn toward the person they are negotiating with or away from them, depending upon their comfort level at the time.

Color has been proven to affect mood, performance, and even physical responses. Anxiety levels in one study were significantly higher for a group taking an exam in red and yellow rooms than for those in blue and green rooms. Studies have indicated children who are upset, calm more quickly in blue rooms and patient heart rates decrease in blue rooms. Green is a relaxing, calming color, used in "green rooms" before a guest appears on television and in hospitals to promote relaxation and healing. You might consider painting your office in a calming color or adding accessories in calming colors to promote relaxation for those who are angry and upset.