Bob Dempsey

6 Steps to Effectively Managing Conflict


“Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.”
Dorothy Thomas

Conflict can be very difficult for us. Just thinking about it makes us anxious. The preconceived notion of conflict being a win or lose collision with others guides us to great lengths to avoid the cognitive and emotional stress that accompanies it. Conflict can manifest at a low intensity, escalate to anger and aggression, and influence people to do irreparable damage to their relationships.

Conflict is a natural occurrence when interacting and living with others. It helps us to grow as people, overcome difficulties, and strengthen existing associations. How we frame conflict has a profound effect on our expectations. Conflict doesn’t always need to carry a negative correlation.

A Few of the Advantages of Managing Conflict Are:

  • Personal Happiness
  • Peaceful Coexistence
  • Increased Productivity
  • Continued Relationship
  • Deeper Connection
  • Promoting Needed Change
  • Initiating Needed Communication
  • Bringing More Serious Issues to Light
  • Stress Relief

Conflict is deeper than we usually perceive and our own behavior and attitudes influence our decision making. We may feel unsupported, or embarrassed to express our needs. Whatever is on our mind may be uncomfortable to express. We may not trust in our ability to keep calm or negotiate. We may have a personality clash or not trust in someone’s reaction.

A Few of the Common Strategies People Use When Managing Conflict Are:

Avoidance: Walking away, indirectly addressing a problem, giving the silent treatment, sulking, withdrawing, gossiping, blocking, or shutting down.

Denial: Pretending nothings wrong or burying our heads in the sand – typically only prolonging tension and increasing discomfort.

Aggression: Rising emotions, anger, verbal attack, losing sight of common interests, or placing an emphasis on winning. This is by far the most toxic approach. Aggression will typically put someone on the defensive or lead them shut down.

Interaction with Others Through Non-Aggressive Dialogue:

This method is not usually our first inclination but, it can be quick, efficient, effective, and very easy to learn. We can use this daily in a collaborative effort with others. Reaching an agreement is much more likely when we keep an open mind, listen attentively, and remain willing to concede points, but also offer an opinion when we disagree. It’s still important to make your position known.

1. Source

Distinguish the source. The source to your problem may not be explicit. You may need to give it some thought. It could be something as simple as being uncomfortable in your current environment, being in a new group of people, or a recurring issue with someone you interact with regularly.

2. Time and Place

Choosing the correct time to start a conversation is very important. When schedules get busy, it can be difficult to find an opportunity. Choosing a hectic weeknight may not work very well. Try to avoid public places when having difficult conversations.

3. Amicable Approach

Start with the positive and express thanks. This is an effective way to get someone’s attention. Say something positive and genuine. Avoid vague statements that may seem inauthentic. Stress that you notice their efforts and what they do matters. It’s important to get someone’s positive attention.

4. Behavior

Identify a specific root problem. Be specific with dates, times, and numbers. Avoid generalized statements. Don’t layer issues on top of each other and attempt to solve them all at once.

5. Emotion

State how you feel. Sometimes it can be confusing to pinpoint exactly what you’re feeling. If you’re feeling angry, try to reflect on what’s underpinning those feelings. It’s important to personalize your statement with “I felt…”

6. Need

What do you need to end this conflict? What do you really want? What changes would you like to see? What needs would you like to be met? Try to be specific. Give this some thought before starting a conversation.

Conclusion

Your interests, objectives, values, wishes, desires, and needs don’t always match with others. The cost of internalizing a problem will always outweigh the benefit, not to mention the indirect cost affecting children, spouses, and family members. Obstacles are easier to manage after a dialogue or negotiation has been initiated. Resolution starts when you communicate that your needs are not being met.

Give it some thought before initiating a conversation. If conflict is too difficult, find a neutral third party to mediate. In the workplace, seek management help if needed. Generally management will be appreciative if you have attempted to address something within the team instead of coming to them with every conflict.

Photo by Adam Kontor from Pexels

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