A conflict is more than just a disagreement. It is a situation in which one or both parties perceive a threat (whether or not the threat is real).
Conflict cannot survive without your participation. Wayne Dyer
Here is what CONFLICT can be like:
- Conflicts continue to fester when ignored. Because conflicts involve perceived threats to our well-being and survival, they stay with us until we face and resolve them.
- We respond to conflicts based on our perceptions of the situation, not necessarily to an objective review of the facts. Our perceptions are influenced by our life experiences, culture, values and beliefs.
- Conflicts trigger strong emotions. If you aren’t comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them in times of stress, you won’t be able to resolve conflict successfully.
- Conflicts are an opportunity for growth. When you’re able to resolve conflict in a relationship, it builds trust. You can feel secure knowing your relationship can survive challenges and disagreements.
- Conflict is a normal part of any healthy relationship. After all, two people can’t be expected to agree on everything, all the time. Learning how to deal with conflict—rather than avoiding it—is crucial.
When a conflict is mismanaged, it can cause great harm to a relationship, but when handled in a respectful, positive way, conflict provides an opportunity to strengthen the bond between two people.
By learning skills for conflict resolution, you can keep your personal and professional relationships strong and growing.
Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude. William James
What causes conflict?
Conflict arises from differences, both large and small.
It occurs whenever people disagree over their
Sometimes these differences appear trivial, but when a conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal need is often at the core of the problem.
These needs can be
- a need to feel safe and secure,
- a need to feel respected and valued, or
- a need for greater closeness and intimacy.
“Conflict forces us to be fully present because it shatters our ego – stripping away all hope of escape or sugar coating. It removes everything that is nonessential to our authentic being; it removes all superficial layers. Conflict is painful because it wakes us up out of our created illusions. And if we lean into it, conflict can be the catalyst to our enlightenment.” ― Alaric Hutchinson
Conflicts arise from differing needs
Everyone needs to feel understood, nurtured, and supported, but the ways in which these needs are met vary widely. Differing needs for feeling comfortable and safe create some of the most severe challenges in our personal and professional relationships.
The needs of both parties play important roles in the long-term success of most relationships, and each deserves respect and consideration. In personal relationships, a lack of understanding about differing needs can result in distance, arguments, and break-ups.
In workplace conflicts, differing needs are often at the heart of bitter disputes, sometimes resulting in broken deals, fewer profits and lost jobs.
When you can recognize the legitimacy of conflicting needs and become willing to examine them in an environment of compassionate understanding, it opens pathways to creative problem solving, team building and improved relationships.
Sometimes you need conflict in order to come up with a solution. Through weakness, oftentimes, you can’t make the right sort of settlement, so I’m aggressive, but I also get things done, and in the end, everybody likes me. Donald Trump
Resolving Conflict at The Workplace
The step-by-step approach outlined here will help you manage conflict effectively and come to a mutually acceptable solution be it at home or at work. Although it is not a definitive list, the ideas given here have been tried and tested and seen to work well in many facets of life.
1. Define the problem
We should not give up and we should not allow the problem to defeat us. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
Once you have been made aware of a problem, call a meeting with the people concerned, and define the situation as factually as possible. You might consider holding separate meetings with each party to try to determine the facts if the situation is particularly difficult.
At this initial stage, it can be difficult to define facts, so keep things as simple as possible. Asking the right questions will be key, but make sure that you ask each party the same questions in order to remain impartial. It may also be useful to find out if there were any third parties to the situation, and ask them about their understanding of it.
Try to ensure that your definition of the problem is entirely neutral and there is no judgement or emotion on your part. Once you have established the situation, capture what you think has happened in a statement. Play back the statement to the parties involved to ensure that you have an accurate picture of the situation.
2. Identify the possible negative issues
Find out what problems and constraints the people involved are dealing with. Let them take turns to list their issues. When doing so, emphasise that these problems are only possible negatives – do not encourage anyone to defend/judge their actions or perceptions of actions. Do not look for solutions at this stage.
3. Examine the positive aspects of their relationship
Ask the parties to identify the constructive or positive aspects of their dealings with one another. Talk about what has worked well in the past. By discussing the positives, you will pave the way towards a resolution.
4. Look for possible solutions to their problems
Ask the parties to describe their desired outcomes. What specifically do they want/need? What would they actually be prepared to commit to?
Ask the parties to brainstorm all the possible solutions, without asking for any form of commitment at this stage.
5. Develop a suitable solution
From the various options available, ask the parties to develop a solution and create a plan, detailing actions and objectives. Ask each party to commit to this strategy.
6. Set up a supporting structure
Without a structure to support the initiative it is unlikely that the conflict resolution plan will work. This may involve a number of meetings and other parties but these should be decided upon and put in place at the outset.
7. Measure the cost of non-compliance
Ensure that everyone is aware of the cost of not following the solution(s) to the problem. Discuss negativity, loss of productivity, and the possible impact on the organisation, and others, if the dispute is not resolved.
They must own the possible positive outcome as well as the possible negative outcome, so let them do most of the talking.
It is important to evaluate the progress of the agreed solution. Decide when and how you are going to evaluate the decisions taken and the progress that may or may not have been made towards this. You may wish to draw up a timetable for certain actions to mark off when they have been achieved. Hold the parties accountable for this.
9. Summarise your discussion
Finish on a positive note by restating their positive aspirations. Remind all concerned what it is that they want, and what the organisation expects from them.
“We may have different points of arguments from perspectives of belief, faith and religion. But we must not hate each other. We are one human family.” ― Lailah Gifty Akita, Think Great: Be Great!
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