Conflict will always exist. It’s a fact of life whether we like them or not. Learning conflict resolution skills makes a lot of sense, unless you prefer to be in difficult situations and mostly end up as the loser.
Conflict occurs in all areas of our lives, including within ourselves. Conflict can be very simple or very complicated. In this article I cover as much as possible from my research and experience.
It's such a huge topic that Google gives 865 million results for 'conflict'. 'Conflict resolution' gets 417 million and 'conflict resolution skills' gets 129 million.
Never rely on one source for your information. Always look at several videos and read articles on anything you want to learn and understand. The benefits that can be derived from conflict is much easier to appreciate when using effective communication and conflict resolution skills.
Is Conflict Good or Bad?
Conflict has a bad reputation and can be very frustrating, but it isn't always bad. Conflict can be beneficial and can lead to a variety of positive outcomes. Running away doesn't work because you learn nothing. Hanging in even when it's painful can be worthwhile.
What is Conflict?
Wikipedia says 'a clash of interest. The basis of conflict may vary, but it is always a part of society. Conflict may be personal, racial, class, caste, political and international.'
The Collins Dictionary says, 'Conflict is a serious disagreement and argument’. 'Conflict is a state of mind in which you find it impossible to make a decision'.
The Cambridge Dictionary says, 'an active disagreement between people with opposing opinions'.
My preference is the last one.
Why Do We have so much Conflict?
Conflict occurs because we all have different knowledge and unique beliefs. A problem arises when two sides have different views and insist, they are right. Turn on your television and a program including some conflict, will show up in no time. Interviews in the media are more and more confrontational. Conflict is familiar to TV soaps. It appears to be a necessary ingredient for their success. We are being programmed with this style of communication every day.
You can't hide from conflict unless you lock yourself up. Remove all possible technology that can connect you to people anywhere in the world. Then throw away the key.
Everybody has conflicts. It's not something you choose, and it happens whether you like them or not.
Anything on this website aims to provide you food for thought. All the information is from my experience and learnings throughout my life. It's you who chooses what to do with it. Everybody learns best by creating their own path.
It's of immense value to read or watch as much information as you can about any topic that interests you. Increased consumption of information leads to better understanding. Increase effectiveness of your communication follows.
What is my relationship with conflict?
When you look into anything that impacts you, it helps to identify your current position as best you can.
Asking yourself questions is always a beneficial exercise. Sometimes we don't acknowledge our truth or can't be honest with ourselves. Denial is not unusual when our subconscious directs many of our decisions. Take time to write down your answers. Read them to yourself because if the answers are not authentic, you will feel it.
- What is my relationship with conflict?
- Do I sometimes rise too fast to anger?
- Why do I get attached to specific points of view?
- Do I still have unresolved issues with people?
- How can I fix any unresolved problem?
Honest answers to these questions help you gain clarity about yourself. Some people can blame themselves and take responsibility for their actions. Don't do this. The goal is to move forward and learn from every conflict, not beat yourself up. The first step is always to understand your starting position.
Conflicts usually begin slowly and can escalate very quickly with disastrous results. Significant negative outcomes from conflicts are:
- People stop talking to each other
- People feeling miserable
- Families falling apart
- Breakup of friendships
- Breakdown in relationships
- Collapse of organisations
- Wars in which millions of people die
Conflicts generally leave people with uncomfortable feelings or unfinished business.
People tend to remember the experience, long after the event. Some people carry an issue throughout their lives.
Cause of Conflict
A person says something or behaves in a manner that’s wrong in your view, and it upsets you. If your feelings are strong enough, you may get angry, or you might withdraw. The conflict begins. One side of the dispute may not realise there is conflict.
Problems with Conflicts
- The tiniest immaterial thing can start them.
- People lose touch with reality without realising it.
- The issue gets lost when people are emotional.
- People can get stuck defending something they don't believe.
- The issue isn't the actual problem.
Understanding & Dealing with Conflict - Conflict Resolution Skills
The first step is to understand your relationship with conflict. The answers you wrote down earlier will help you get specific.
Next, learn how to deal with conflict in one on one situations. Once you have mastered this, you can use the same methods with larger groups because the process is the same.
Learning how to work with groups is a skill you can learn, but this isn't covered on this website.
There's no guarantee you'll resolve every conflict, regardless of how skilful you are. It may be your aim, but it doesn't happen every time. You can often agree to have a break and address it again another time. The break has the effect of nullifying the heated emotions, most of the time.
Can humans survive without conflict? Perhaps not.
You can learn to embrace conflicts as positive opportunities. Conflicts are more comfortable to resolve when you can manage your emotional responses.
The Elements of Conflict
- Your perspective is the primary element. It comes from your: values, beliefs, unique personality and understanding. Know your values and beliefs, may no longer be valid.
- The other person's perspective. Their perspective comes from their values, beliefs, unique personality and their interpretation. Their values, beliefs and nature taint the latter because they may also be invalid now.
- The conflict which is the perceived difference between the two sides.
Note: When you accept that people have different perspectives, this goes a long way towards avoiding or preventing conflict.
Conflict Resolution Skills
There are many ways to approach a difficult situation.
Steps to Resolving Conflict - Conflict Resolution Skills
If you choose to resolve a conflict, you have to begin with yourself. If you believe you're right, then the dispute cannot reach a resolution without force. You think you win, but, in the long term, you lose.
- Explore your perspective. How are your values, beliefs and your unique personality driving your interpretation? How do your values, beliefs and personality disturb your understanding?
- What is the other person's perspective? How do their values, beliefs and their unique personality taint their interpretation?
- When you understand your motives, then try to understand theirs. You must accept their perspective and appreciate that it's probably different to yours. You do this by asking them about their view. Find out what's important to them.
- There's the conflict, the perceived difference between the two. It's possible to reach an acceptable solution if both sides follow the first three steps.
Resolved Conflict Outcomes
- One or the other sees the situation in another way. The emotion fades away.
- You both understand each other's perspective and are comfortable with the outcome. Both willingly agree to disagree, real consensus, and the emotion fades away.
- You understand each other's perspective, but you find it difficult to accept. The conflict still exists, but there's less emotion attached to it. It may, or may not, raise its ugly head again.
- Neither side wants to budge on their point of view, then it becomes a stalemate. The cause of this conflict can occur again in other situations. If it isn't resolved, eventually it will cause a permanent breakdown. How long it will last is impossible to say. In an organisation the management may resolve it for you and it may not satisfy you.
Note: Issues you fail to resolve today, can stay with you forever unless you learn to resolve them now.
We're all different, or should I say unique? Throughout our lives, we can always learn something new about ourselves and others. Conflicts have an impact on our learning. Other people's perspectives can also help us learn.
It helps when we understand more about ourselves. Learn to be more accepting of others. Let conflicts become an acceptable part of life.
Conflicts become easier to resolve. The worst thing to do is avoid conflict. When our emotion takes over in conflict, then It's far better to withdraw. Take time to let the emotion subside, learn to understand, and then address the issue again.
True Life Examples
I ensure nobody recognises anybody or organisation from these examples. Learning from problems is excellent value. Knowing the participants adds no value.
Management ran a very tight operation, placing immense pressure on everybody. People kept leaving because of the stress.
The cost of replacing staff because of shortages was putting pressure on finances. This included overtime costs because of staff shortages.
Solution to Problem One
The owners outlined their interpretation of the issues they were facing.
I interviewed two staff members randomly chosen. This exposed the problem experienced by the staff from their perspective.
I now understood what was happening and why people were leaving.
All staff accepted a solution presented by me. Nobody would leave for two months while they observed any improvement.
The owners were happy with the solution recommended.
Part of the problem was the managerial style of the owners. They put immense pressure on everybody. I helped them understand what was happening. Then demonstrated ways to make their staff feel respected.
The conflict ended. Sadly, this didn't settle down permanently. After a short time, the owners reverted to their previous dominant style. People began leaving again. The company eventually folded.
Bottom line – if you fail to adapt nothing will change. The same old outcomes persist. You get what you've always got.
An organisation had a problem with one senior manager. It was serious. They wanted him to leave, but you couldn't fire someone without a valid reason.
- The employment rule was the law of the country
- The organisation couldn't prove anything legally wrong
- A problem between the manager and their staff was getting worse
The organisation, the staff, and the individual were all unhappy. And it was impacting performance. The organisation couldn't fire the person without following the legal employment process. At that time, the legal process was long and complicated. The process would have taken too much time, and it would have ended up in court. And they would have lost. The financial penalty for not following the procedure was high.
Solution to Problem Two
The manager attended two interviews. During the first one, they said they wanted to continue working with the organisation. The employee accepted that the position was intolerable for both sides. I can't go into details for obvious reasons. After the meetings, the employee agreed to termination terms. Both parties were happy with the outcome. Neither needed to instigate legal procedures.
Every situation is different. Sometimes a hammer might be needed and can work, but in most cases, people will bow to common sense. The most important thing is to do whatever it takes to ensure all sides can stand tall without losing face.
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