Making Conflict Work for You
By Jim Dawson
is inevitable. We may be
afraid of it and handle it poorly, allowing problems to fester and
grow. We may use it to
control and manipulate others. Or
we may accept that conflict is necessary for things to improve or
we respond to conflict that determines whether we see it as a means to
encourage innovation and find answers, or as something to be avoided.
If you understand the role conflict plays in your work and
personal relationships, and you have the proper behaviors and
environment, you can make conflict work for you to find better, and
often unexpected, solutions.
conflict effectively you have to understand:
incompatible activities or ideas occur, conflict occurs.
Any two people who have a disagreement usually have some level
of emotional attachment to their own point of view.
As a result, conflict breeds increased interaction and
managed appropriately, conflict can stimulate creativity and new ways
of thinking. Conflict also
can help build group cohesiveness by providing an outlet for
hostility. It may be said
that the group, or couple, that fights together stays together.
norms: Anytime two or more people live or work together, there will
be conflict. Minor conflicts are usually handled diplomatically, such
as deciding where to go to dinner. During a more significant disagreement of opinion, diplomacy
may evolve or devolve depending on the degree of personal investment
in the point of view or outcome desired.
an idea is shared with others, that idea will go through a transition
as it’s tested, challenged, and explored by others.
This leads to a curious but potentially constructive blend of
persuasion, compromise, negotiation, argumentation, flexibility, and
firmness of opinion.
conflict resolution leverages the range of communicative behaviors of
all the group members, including those who prefer to avoid conflict,
and those who try to control conflict as a driver, “My way or the
highway,” as a peacemaker, “I must have peace at all costs,” as
a compromiser, “I’ll give up what I want,” or as a down player,
“I’ll handle it later or maybe it will go away.”
While these behaviors can have merit depending on the
situation, they usually foster simmering forms of conflict that lower
morale and allow bigger problems to develop.
conflict is inevitable and it can make a positive impact on
relationships and teamwork, for managers and supervisors the question
becomes, “How can I maximize the benefits of conflict and avoid the
consequences of destructive behavior?”
with conflict, most people feel threatened or invalidated to some
degree. In response, they
may keep repeating the same stories or opinions, stop listening to
others, or refuse to see the facts of a situation.
In essence, they become oblivious to any middle ground and
resist working toward a mutually beneficial solution.
Some, without realizing it, can’t tell the difference between
their wants and needs. They
tend to ask for it all and are less interested in finding a rational
of how people respond to conflict, you can help them engage in the
resolution process. In
most situations, you can do this by treating them in a respectful
manner, making time to hear what they have to say, letting them know
their contributions are valued, and reassuring them that they play an
important part in resolving the conflict.
a SAFE Environment:
conflict work for you, it’s up to you to provide a SAFE environment
that encourages constructive behaviors and helps you facilitate a
productive dialogue. Here
are four key behaviors that can help you, and by your example, help
others see beyond what has been to what can be.
S—Solicit and be open to
if you believe your way is the best way, be open to other answers.
Be willing to consider all possible solutions and pick the best
one that may or may not be the one in which you have a vested
A—Attend mentally as well as
is not enough just to show up. You
have to choose to be present and really listen to what’s being said,
and contribute 100% of your energy and ability to the effort.
Ask questions to clarify the problem and demonstrate your
willingness to understand other perspectives.
If needed, let the individuals involved vent their anger or
express their fears. Your
job is to actively listen, establish eye contact, and don’t
interrupt the speaker. You
are not only showing respect when you listen, you are finding out
information that can help you resolve the conflict.
F—Focus on what’s important:
is easy to be sidetracked into meaningless or unrelated issues and
arguments. Keep asking
yourself and the team, what’s really important?
What is our mission? Don’t
allow yourself or the team to be led down unproductive side paths.
your concerns calmly and try to keep your own emotions out of it.
Unless you are dealing with a trend, stick to the present and
emphasize that you want to focus on what can be done to resolve the
problem now and avoid it in the future.
communication—no blame or judgment:
the expectation that everyone will talk to each other openly and
honestly and with respect. State
that it’s not about making someone right or wrong--it’s about
making the issues easier to resolve.
Make it clear that you are looking for a solution, not a
perpetrator. Don’t allow
finger pointing or accusations.
environment is one in which participants show consideration for the
other person’s point of view before they speak or respond to what
has been said. It is not a
blank check to say whatever comes to mind, but a constructive and
purposeful process. Creating
a SAFE environment takes time and your example and behavior will set
the tone that everyone will receive the same consideration.
importantly, you must take responsibility for your role in the
conflict. Don’t be
afraid to acknowledge mistakes or oversights on your part that
contributed to the situation. Set
the example for others by asking for input about what you could do
differently and thank the people who give you that feedback.
is normal and an integral part of the way we make progress.
When used properly, you will be amazed at what can be
worry if you are nervous and things seem unsettling during the
resolution process. If you
are committed to finding the right outcome, your courage, confidence,
and competency will grow.
really want to affect change, accept that there will always be
resistance. It’s up to
you to withstand the pressures. By
laying the groundwork and providing a SAFE environment, you will have
the proper “pressure valves” and resources in place to turn
conflicts into solutions.
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