by Cornelius D. Jones
Conflicts can range from small sibling rivalry, disagreements in relationships, to sharing a workspace with a colleague who consistently leaves the space disorganized and messy. Which may be frustrating and seem unprofessional to you. Although conflict may be beneficial in certain situations, in others it can result in negative consequences. The benefit that I propose is conflict can include improved understanding of roles, team development and quality of group decision making.
Although conflict cannot be avoided but it can certainly be managed. Since conflict will always be present on an individual and organizational level, it is important to develop the skills to appropriately manage a difficult conversation or interaction. Developing the skills necessary to overcome conflict can be defined and learned to reduce the likelihood of escalation or additional harm.
Six Pearls of Wisdom of Overcoming Conflict
1. Make sure that good relationships are a priority. Treat the other person with respect. Do your best to be courteous, and to discuss matters constructively.
2. Separate people from problems. Recognize that, in many cases, the other person is not "being difficult" – real and valid differences can lie behind conflicting positions. By separating the problem from the person, you can discuss issues without damaging relationships.
3. Listen carefully to different interests. You'll get a better grasp of why people have adopted their position if you try to seek understanding instead of being understood.
4. Listen first, talk second. You should listen to what the other person is saying before defending your own position. They might say something that changes your mind.
5. Set out the "facts." Decide on the observable facts that might impact your decision, together.
6. Explore options together. Be open to the idea that a third position may exist, and that you might reach it jointly.
Healthy Resolutions to Conflict
To begin this process, it is important to cultivate self-awareness regarding one's physical and emotional reaction to situations involving conflict. The most common responses on approaching conflict include avoiding, accommodating, competing, compromising, and collaborating. Avoidance (or silence) refers to an individual recognizing conflict in a situation and actively deciding to not engage or deal with the problem. Avoidance may be prudent when the issue is minor in nature, as a temporary response or when emotions are high or when others can resolve an issue more efficiently. This approach would be the opposite of someone whose response is to compete. Which is categorized as being forcing, uncooperative, and assertive in the situation. Competition might be appropriate in emergent situations or actions known to be unpopular need to be taken on an important issue. People whose response is to accommodate others generally do not have their own needs met. Accommodations may be necessary when one is wrong, if the issue is more critical to others or if the value of harmony in the situation outweighs the benefit of a conflict. When accommodation is used, the conflict is resolved but if the pattern repeats itself frequently residual resentment may affect the relationship.
Compromise and collaboration are both a balance of assertiveness and cooperativeness. The difference between the two is that compromise is often a negotiation between two parties with equivalent power, whereas collaboration is focused on finding a solution where all parties involved have their needs met. Compromise is focused on fixing a problem with healthy options and interventions that allows for a broader view on problem solving. A combination of compromise and collaboration has also been defined as a problem-solving response. Although there is not a correct response, these responses characterized by open-mindedness to the ideas and perspectives of others promote positive outcomes.
When a conflict exists, the first step is to decide whether to address it. Your decision should involve balancing the reward against price of addressing the issue; that balance is unique to each circumstance. Some general rules are that if the issue is troublesome enough that it is affecting your behavior or weighing on your conscience, it should be addressed. It is important not to confuse the perceived difficulty of the conversation with determination of whether it will be beneficial and appropriate to proceed. Perceived differences in power often impact a decision to address a conflict.
We must also thoroughly understand our own position. It is critical to gather all the background information and any data necessary to discuss the conflict, prior to doing so. It is important to achieve clarity about what is desired from the confrontation as well as what you are prepared to give up or compromise. Another key element is awareness and identifying which outcomes we consider undesirable. Part of the preparation is consideration of our own motivations and goals as well as the motivations and goals of the other party. This step seems obvious but is frequently not done or only superficially evaluated. Just to be clear, it is understanding from as many vantage points as possible how the problem situation might have developed.