Conflict is everywhere
Whether you are in management, running a home, or your own boss, being able to find effective strategies and tools for dealing with conflict, is an important and useful soft skill which will serve you well in many situations.
The right approach will help resolve issues which might otherwise escalate unnecessarily.
In finding strategies and tools to deal with conflicts two questions come immediately to mind. They are 1.Why a conflict arises
2.What type of conflict is being dealt .
Both these questions and the answers could well be included as part of the conflict resolution process. The answers to these questions would be of great value in defining tools and strategies not only to deal with, but also to avoid other conflict situations in the future.
What are some of the ways to deal with conflict?
1.Define what a conflict is:
Probably the most effective way is surely to look at our attitude to conflicts and define what we mean when we talk about conflicts. One person might see a conflict as something “negative” to be avoided if they don’t want to become unpopular with others, or if there is a fear of losing face or having to “give in”
Another might see the same situation as a potential for learning – being open to what another person has to say, we could end up learning something about the person, the subject of the conflict or about ourselves. In this case a conflict could be defined as a welcome opportunity for growth and increased productivity.
2. Ask questions, clarify situations:
Conflicts often arise from misunderstandings – asking questions to make sure you understood correctly what the person SAID and know what they MEANT will help. Our opinions and behaviours are coloured by our past experiences, which might cause us to see, hear, and assume something quite different from what actually happened. This small step can easily calm down a situation and prevent it from getting out of hand.
3. Accepting other opinions:
We don’t always have to agree with each other. Accepting that other people may have different perspectives, learning to accept them not as wrong but different, will allow you to be more open and flexible to new situations which might arise.
4. Make your expectations known clearly:
When our expectations have not been clearly stated and defined, this might give rise to a conflict situation. By making sure you state exactly and clearly you want from the other person you eliminate the breeding ground for guessing and assumptions.
Stress situations are also very likely to kindle the flames of a conflict situation- taking care of ourselves by being aware of our mental, physical and emotional states will help us remain calm and patient when things don’t go according to plan. We so often ignore the signs of stress such as headaches, fatigue, high blood pressure and would be well advised to take note of these signals in time.
What about you, do you take note of the signals your body is sending you or do you allow yourself to get to the point where you are so stressed that you can not see a conflict situation approaching till it is right under your nose? This would certainly help us when it comes to knowing how to deal with conflict at work and in other situations.
6. Look at the cause, not the symptom:
In looking to resolve conflicts some might look to anger management tools; however, this is only addressing the anger and not the actual attitude to the conflict. Inevitably the person might find themselves experiencing similar situations if the groundwork for dealing with conflicts is not addressed.
Investigating WHY a conflict arises would therefore be more useful in the long term. This is of course not only relevant to dealing with conflict at work; this could for example also be relevant in situations of parent-child conflicts.
7. Clear cut “rules of the game”:
Having a basic agreement about the way the conflict resolution process will be conducted are mandatory if you want an effective outcome. Of course, all parties have to be comfortable with these “rules of conduct”. For example, it ought not to be taken for granted that each person will listen to what the other has to say; we were not all taught the basic rules of etiquette. That the persons involved will be dialoguing rather than one person holding a monologue should also be made clear from the start.
There has to be a situation of mutual respect. The aim ought to be a win-win situation rather than hoping to convince or force acceptance of an opinion. Insisting that their opinion is right is bad enough. Insisting that their opinion is the only valid one presupposes a difficult negotiation.
8. Be open to the unexpected:
Are you open to the unexpected? Conflict resolution happens quicker when we are open and flexible. Being open to different approaches and ways of doing things, eliminates the reason to be in conflict . The opposite is true when we are unable to let go of our rigid pre-formed ideas and opinions.
9. How do I want to be treated?
Of equal importance is treating each other respectfully and as we would like to be treated. Aggressive, pushy behaviour often results in people acting defensively. The same is true when people feel they are not being listened to. Allow others the opportunity to express themselves.
When both parties have their defences up it will take more effort to bring down those defences. Resuming a state of openness and accessibility is destined to take longer.
Being defensive yourself from the onset, is certainly not the best strategy to use when aiming to resolve a conflict. I can not think of any situation when this would not apply. How do you want to be treated in a conflict situation?
10. Be honest
In any conflict situation being honest is, in my opinion, the best strategy; short term it might not appear so but in the long term it will be of more value.
Further conflict can arise out of an already present situation. The fear of being honest causes us not to own up to the truth. More often than not this leads to a situation escalating unnecessarily. Admitting to having made a mistake, to having forgotten or lost something, or whatever else the situation might be, are ways to prevent future conflicting situations from flaring up. We all make mistakes and while owning up to any makes us more vulnerable, it also strengthens our character. Being honest gives others “permission” to be honest with us and lets them know where they stand with us.
We are all different and so are our conflict situations and strategies. Therefore I give no guarantee that these steps will resolve any personal conflict YOU might be experiencing. I do hope though that they provide a new or different perspective or helpful insight on HOW to go about dealing with conflict.
Dealing with conflict -Over to you
Which of these strategies do you use? Are there any you can NOT imagine using or are there any which are new to you? I am sure myself and other readers are interested in what you have to say about dealing with conflicts. I have included some links to literature which you might find useful in dealing with conflict. Please do let me know if you find any of them helpful.
Looking forward to hearing from you.