Conflict Management

“The world as we know it is a construction, a finished product, almost – one might say – a manufactured article, to which the mind contributes as much by its moulding forms as the thing contributes by its stimuli.” – Will Durant

Last week, I took a 3 day training in managing conflict and negotiation solutions. It was really beneficial and really brought up some themes I had forgotten about. I think the majority of the population go on with their lives negotiating and dealing with conflict without really realizing or taking into account their systematic approach to these situations. Do you remember the last time you had an argument with your husband? Or you family? Was it rational? I know that in my conflict with family, situations get extremely irrational and emotional, and I end up arguing things from years ago. In most situations, opinions and perceptions are brought up as facts. I have no systematic method in negotiation and conflict.

“Self awareness facilitates both empathy and self management, and these two in combination allow effective relationship management” – Daniel Goleman

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “conflict?” I think of a fight, argument, tears, grudges. Do you have negative connotations, as well? Destructive Conflict is certainly characterized by personal attacks, over competitiveness, issue proliferation, and faulty communication skills. Sound familiar? Think about when you are arguing with your spouse or family member. Do you bring up issues from ten years ago? Do you compete to talk, and essence start yelling? Criticizing, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt are all barriers to communication. This doesn’t just happen in our personal life. A lot of the characteristics prevalent in your personal life will in some shape or form transfer to your workplace. Today’s workplace seems even more prone to excessive conflict: bad performance review, unstable people, dysfunctional teams, absenteeism, high stress conditions, unresolved conflicts, and change management.

Is conflict bad though? We think of conflict as bad due to a self-fulfilling prophecy. We get nervous about a conflict we’re experiencing, we avoid it as long as possible, the conflict gets out of control and it must be confronted, and we handle it poorly. It’s a never ending cycle that usually ends in decreased level of communication, proximity, and commitment, and it could turn into the death of a relationship.

Conflict can be productive if handled correctly. Productive conflict is characterized by focused issues, parties having flexibility in how they achieve goals, listening skills, dialog, and recognizing other parties’ needs and concerns. Productive conflict leads to a higher probability of conflict being resolved, and improvement of the relationship.

How do you deal with conflict? Any examples? 

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5 comments

  • I had my first sort of “conflict” conversation at work the other day. I tried to remember how it felt when my supervisor made me feel small so I tried to listen and asked her what I could’ve done to make her feel less alienated. I don’t think it worked-but she did describe it later on as an “awkard” conversation instead of one that was “angry” or “tense”. Small victories, I suppose :)

  • Well if it’s unnecessary I try to walk away. I hate arguing, especially with someone who isn’t open minded and won’t budge in seeing another point of view. If i have to deal with it, I try to keep it in a calm tone. If tone escalates, I tell the person I can chat with them about it, but not at this time until they are calm.

    • That’s a great way to deal with arguments. I am trying to get better at it. I don’t like arguing but my persistent and bull headed manner almost always gets me into situations where I am arguing. My goal is to walk away and say I will deal with it later.

  • Honestly conflict is a tough thing to deal with. Too much of it and the relationship is strained. Conversely, if it is all suppressed a blow-out is bound to happen. I think it’s also a matter of how well you “click” with the other person. If two people don’t click, conflicts blow up when they really are much smaller issues than the two make them out to be.

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