Conflict Resolution Strategies
Conflict can be destructive if it isn’t successfully channeled and resolved relatively quickly and efficiently. However, in and of itself conflict is not problematic. If handled properly, conflict can highlight problems that need to be rectified, lead to new ideas and behavior, enhance communication, and foster better long term relationships between individuals and groups.
Although we frequently encounter conflict in our working and personal lives, many of us lack a sound understanding of the process, skills and techniques that can be used to resolve conflict constructively. In other words we need conflict resolution strategies to deploy and in this brief article we will describe three conflict strategies that can be utilized each time a particular conflict situation needs to be handled.
Conflict Resolution Strategy One
We first need to identify the stakeholders involved in the conflict and the roles that they play (e.g. disputants, advisers, advocates, spectators). In any conflict situation a number of parties may be involved. These include the direct parties, i.e. those who are in conflict (the disputants), and those who represent the disputants (the advocates). A number of indirect parties can also be involved, including advisers (formal and informal) who work behind the scenes advising the disputants what to say and do in the conflict situation, and spectators who watch the conflict take place, and often gain pleasure or benefit from the spectacle of the conflict. People often describe these individuals as the “bullet makers” as opposed to the “bullet-firers”. Indirect parties may influence the direct parties to act in a way that exacerbates, rather than resolves the conflict. To fully understand the conflict situation, you need to be aware of who is playing what role in the conflict and why.
Conflict Resolution Strategy Two
Once we know who the conflict stakeholders are we need to understand the potential sources of the conflict and the “RADAR” model is a good way to do this. The RADAR model offers five possible “realms” of conflict sources and our job is to identify the most likely one to focus upon:
Relationship conflicts often arise as a result of the presence of highly aroused emotions (usually negative ones). Social stereotyping, miscommunication and bad personal behavior can all lead to poor relationships and misconceptions arising as a result.
Conflicts about personal aims are caused by very direct and usually incompatible goals of two or more parties. This results when one or more of the parties believe that in order to satisfy his or her aims, the goals of an opponent must be sacrificed. Differences in aims will often be expressed in positional terms.
Data conflicts arise when people either do not have the necessary information to make fully informed decisions, are misinformed in some way, disagree on what information is relevant, or interpret information differently. Some data conflicts are caused by a lack of communication between individuals and therefore can often be resolved quite easily with a little effort and by standing back far enough.
Attitude conflicts typically arise as a result of real or perceived incompatibility in values or beliefs.
Differing values do not necessarily lead to conflict. People work perfectly well together with very different values. Attitude disputes are usually caused when people attempt to force their own beliefs or attitudes on others, or do not allow for different views. Attitudes are hard to quickly discover and are extremely difficult to change with any speed. However, spending some time in trying to discover shared values or beliefs (whatever they may be) can greatly assist the conflict resolution process.
Conflicts that are restricted or constrained in some way are usually caused by forces external to the people in dispute. Limited authority, geographic constraints (distance or proximity), time (too little or too much), insufficient resources, organizational changes, etc can all make conflict appear like a crisis because there is often nowhere to go that does not seem to be blocked off or restricted by external forces.
Each of these five sources of conflict helps to narrow down the possible problem to be faced and allows us to develop particular handling tactics.
Conflict Resolution Strategy Three
Although ways in which you finally resolve conflict will vary greatly according to the particular circumstances (as well as being a result of what you may have discovered in the first two strategies outlined above) the utilization of a “conflict map” can be a very useful preparation strategy to consider.
During the discussion phase, both parties verbally express their views and feelings about the conflict situation. However, many conflict situations will be complex and discussion between the parties may keep rehashing the same views, without coming up with concrete proposals for “middle –ground” or actually resolving the conflict. Just as a road map illustrates the intricacies of a particular location and provides routes for moving from one point to another in relation to this location, a conflict map can be prepared so that the parties obtain a full overview of the conflict situation, clarify the issues involved, highlight their needs and concerns and identify ways to move towards agreement. A conflict map simply lists the Needs and Concerns of both parties in then conflict and then outlines potential areas of synergy and difference. Although this map is a “best-guess” for either party preparing it, it is amazing how quickly it can clarify where the potential for resolution may exist.
Conflict represents both a threat and an opportunity with any organization when it arises. However, armed with a the three handling strategies outlined above, it is likely that any conflict that does occur can be more efficiently and effectively dealt with and even help the enterprise to get to better places.