How To Resolve Conflict
* Today's article comes to us from: Sandra Daniel - a senior lecturer and regional trainer for over two decades. She designs and delivers training programs for universities and corporate organizations. Some of these programs are speed reading, effective writing skills, technical report writing, writing research papers, critical and creative thinking skills. She is also a managing partner of Lateral Solutions Consulting LLP and in this capacity, she has been delivering high-impact customized programs on crisis communication, effective negotiation strategies, integrated thinking for problem solving and decision making. As an author, Sandra has published 4 other books: Critical Thinking, Read Faster! Memorize Better! Think Clearer!, A Guide to Grammar for Tertiary Level and Impactful Academic Writing. She can be contacted: firstname.lastname@example.org. URL:
It is an unfortunate fact that whenever two or more people come together there is always the possibility of conflict occurring. This is naturally bound to occur because as human beings we have difference in opinions and ideas and we want to believe and convince others that our opinions and ideas are better than theirs. It is crucial to understand that just because someone does not agree with you does not necessarily mean they dislike you. If you want to improve your ability to resolve conflict amicably, first overcome some of the myth associated with conflict.
The first myth is that conflict is always negative. This is not true as although conflict can be unpleasant at times, it can be a great catalyst for positive changes. Further, when there is a conflict, it suggests that the other party is actually giving a different perspective to the situation. Take the cue from Walter Lippmann who succinctly said: "Where all think alike, no one thinks much."
Another myth is that conflict is always violent. It is possible that if not managed properly conflict may excel to violent behaviour. However if the parties to the conflict have a far-sighted perception of what their primary objectives are, it is possible to manage such distressing situation objectively leading to a peaceful and productive conclusion.
In order to overcome any conflict that you face with your office colleagues, customers or other people in your life, you need to equip yourself with some powerful conflict resolution strategies to explore and understand the inherent differences that others have and use them to interact in a more positive, productive and meaningful ways.
Setting the stage to resolve conflict
When resolving a conflict it is imperative to pay attention to some intangibles that may affect the direction towards which the conflict is heading. In order to resolve conflict amicably and objectively, create an effective atmosphere by setting some ground rules on how the parties should communicate with each other and neutralize any possible form of toxic emotions that may rear its ugly head. This can be done by creating a mutual understanding by helping to identify the needs and wants that all the parties to the conflict are aspiring towards. Once you have done this you need to focus on the root cause of the conflict and find some common ground where all the parties can agree with.
The next phase to resolve conflict is to develop a model to come to an ideal conclusion that is supported by the other parties in the conflict. In the 1970s, Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann came up with a five style model to resolve conflict. This is called the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument [TKI] and has stood the test of time in its practical application to resolving conflict.
Fundamentally the TKI model suggest that the parties to a conflict should consider the merits of the outcome of what they want most. As such there is no one ideal solution but five possibilities or styles as Thomas and Kilmann suggested.
The first style of conflict resolution is to work on a collaborative approach. Here the parties work together to develop a solution option that puts them in a win-win situation. This style can be used for important and long term decision and where time is not of essence. However if a decision has to be made quickly and might prove unpopular then the competing style may be used. Here the person in conflict has to take a firm stand and compete with the other party. This can be perceived as aggressive and should only be used sparingly and if possible be avoided.
The third style is to use the compromising approach where by each person in the conflict is prepared to give up some of their grievances and contribute towards the resolution. This style is usually workable when the parties to the conflict are equally matched and they are more interested in resolving the conflict rather than wanting to 'win'.
A more passive and peaceful style is the accommodating approach. This style is beneficial in situations where the parties are more interested in maintaining the relationship than just winning and the conflicting issue is one which is important to one party and not to you so that you are prepared to give in.
The last style is avoidance of the conflict at whatever cost. This occurs typically where the conflict suggest deep rooted beliefs and issues that cannot be solved by discussion alone. Further, the issues may be trivial and simply a reflection of the individual's idiosyncrasies. If you have the magnanimous attitude to overlook this and avoid confrontation you may sow the seed to develop a more meaningful relationship by being able to accept people for who they are and not judging them unnecessarily. This then boils down to your attitude and do take the cue from William James who said: "Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make a difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude."
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