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Home » Management

Understanding Conflict And Getting Resolution

I once read “Virtually every true conversation (the honest exchange of thought) can lead to conflict!” At first I took exception to this statement; however I have come to believe that the words are right on target.

Carl Rogers said: “Our first reaction to most statements is an evaluation or judgment, rather than an understanding of it. … Our tendency is almost immediately to feel, “that’s right,” or “that’s stupid,” “that’s abnormal,” that’s unreasonable,” “that’s incorrect,” “that’s not nice.” Very rarely do we permit ourselves to understand precisely what the meaning of the statements is to the other person.”

As individuals or groups, we are all so unique that it is easy to get involved in conflicts when our interests, ideas, concerns, opinions or values are challenged, or it is felt that our individual or collective needs are not being met. This conflict of thought is most always expressed in the conversations we have with others.

As individuals and groups (organizations), we are normally very set in our view of the world. Everyone suffers to some degree from “selective perception.” We typically select what we want to remember, recall and believe… and then conveniently dismiss, ignore, filter and revise the information to fit and support our beliefs. Once we form our opinion based on this filtering process we may even look for even more information which will support our selective perception. The more we become both comfortable and entrenched with our perception, the more we feel we are right and others wrong. This leads to conflict with others. Often this conflict leads to a level where it must be resolved.

Most conflict is not right or wrong, it just is. It is a natural reaction when we or others feel challenged, pressured or threatened. Conflict is indeed needed to help individuals and organization grow, develop and mature. There are several basic needs such as security, identity, self-actualization, bonding and recognition that result in conflict and drive the need for conflict resolution. The point is; conflict is needed, healthy and not going to go away. The question is; how can you learn to become more effective in dealing with and resolving conflict?

There are 5 ways we typically choose to deal with conflict.

1. Most often we try to avoid conflict, at least initially.

2. We may try to accommodate the other parties’ needs, but not satisfy any of ours.

3. We may frame the conflict only in our terms, showing no concern for others.

4. We may compromise with the others, resulting in each getting some satisfaction.

5. On rare occasions both parties will truly collaborate and meet each others concerns and interests resulting in a significantly better relationship.

There are times it is best to avoid the conflict or go along to get along. Compromise can also be a workable and acceptable approach. However, there are times when a true solution must be arrived at because of the seriousness of the conflict or because the fallout can permanently sever the relationship if a solid resolution is not reached.

Twelve Steps to Resolve Conflict

1. Welcome the conflict. Can you imagine how boring conversations and relationships would be without some disagreement?

2. Approach the conflict as a problem which needs to be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.

3. Control your emotions (temper) but be “honestly” emotional.

4. Distrust your first impression, which normally leads to being defensive.

5. Listen. I mean really listen. Listen to learn.

6. Try to determine if the conflict is stemming from a clash of interests, a difference in values or the fact that basic human needs are not being satisfied.

7.Look for areas of agreement. Most people bring some valid points to a discussion.

8. Think over the other side’s ideas and position. Walk in their shoes.

9. Show the respect in the conflict that you would like to see from them.

10. Be honest, admit error and sincerely apologize if necessary.

11. Don’t exaggerate and don’t bring up past differences. Stick to the problem.

12. Postpone action/decision if both sides need time to think through the situation.

Four important points to guide you when dealing with conflict

* Attack the problem not the person!
* Don’t be disagreeable just because you disagree!
* Be unconditionally constructive!
* Resolve the conflict. It won’t magically go away!

And remember…We are all very much the same, but also very different… 

Roger Ingbretsen

Meet the Author Roger Ingbretsen

Roger Ingbretsen has written 40 Articles on Small Business Delivered.

With more than three decades of operational and leadership experience, Roger has developed a sharp eye for how organizations and their leaders can retool and become strategically focused. Roger is a retired USAF officer, serving on active duty for twenty-six years.

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