In the book “the 7 day weekend”, the anthropologist Angeles Arrien provides insight about conflict. She defines conflict as:
“a situation of change and/or a situation that provides growth”
Nice words, but most of us don’t usually don’t think of conflict as “good”. It seems she means that overcoming the conflict situation is the growth opportunity rather than the conflict itself.
Conflict is not, therefore, something you need to avoid at all costs. In fact, conflict can sometimes be the quickest and best way to make creative progress. You certainly don’t want everyone automatically to say “yes” to everything without proper discussion! (Mind Tools – Managing Conflict in meetings)
So positively resolving conflict can sometimes result in a better solution to the problem.
The Root Causes
According to Arrien’s research, in most countries, conflict came down to two factors:
- Not saying what we mean
- Not doing what we say
If we don’t (or can’t) communicate effectively, the real issues are not being discussed. Therefore the conflict is based upon a false premise. It helps to focus on one issue at a time, which may assist in misunderstanding.
We feel secure and listened to when someone says “yes”, but the effect is opposite if the person doesn’t deliver. It’s better to say no, otherwise a conflict is inevitable.
If we master the these two behaviours we are well on the way to resolving conflict.
Listening to others is vital. It is only by listening can we truly understand the problem and it’s potential solutions.
Collaboration, Force and Compromise
Arrien offers the following 6 point plan to resolving conflict, involving listening and collaboration:
1. Identify what the problem is
2. Brainstorm at least 10 possible solutions to the problem (don’t take feasibility, resources or time into account yet)
3. Select the three most likely possibilities from the list
4. Negotiate with others to reach a consensus on the most workable solution.
5. Create and implement an actual plan to carry out the solution
6. Set the first milestone that you will review the solution to ensure it’s working, then when that time comes adjust the plan.
Collaboration is the right thing to do do, but it can take a great deal time and sometimes we don’t have the time.
Sometimes we just don’t have the time to collaborate, so we may need to use our “power” to force the issue. This in turn can result in damaged relationships, which may need to be healed later. In this case shortcuts do have a price.
If time is of the essence, we can try compromise or “accommodation”. This involves finding a “win win” that allows for differences to be accommodated. Of course this may result in a less than ideal solution.
An admission that conflict is just part of your relationship with others will make it less upsetting when it happens. If you learn to deal with conflict you will grow and will you ultimately improve those relationships.
7 Day Weekend – Stefan Larsen
Mind Tools – Conflict Resolution – http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_81.htm
Conflict Management – Style and strategy – http://www.wright.edu/~scott.williams/LeaderLetter/conflict.htm