Friday, May 23, 2008

Personal Development: Resolving Conflict

I have conflicts with my peers, how to resolve?

Organisational conflict can occur at several levels: between individuals, between groups and between organisations. Lets face it, in our lives we cannot avoid conflicts. Everyday we have to face them. I agree I have to deal with conflicts at times. I know there are many books & courses on conflict management. But here we have, a very simple blog on how conflicts arise and how we go about dealing with them. I thought may be useful, considering we are living in a highly industralised little island called Singapore. So first of all, lets understand how conflict proceeds which I have classified into 4 stages:

(a) Phase 1: Latent

When 2 or more parties must cooperate with one another in order to achieve a desired objective, there is potential for conflict. Latent conflict is often created whenever change occurs. Examples are a budget cutback, a change in organisational direction, a change in a personal goal or value, a new crisis project added to an already overloaded work force.

(b) Phase 2: Perceived

This is the point when members are becoming more aware of a problem even if they are not sure where it comes from. Incompatibility is perceived and tension begins.

(c) Phase 3: Felt

The parties begin to focus on differences of opinion and interests, sharpening perceived conflict. Internal tensions and fustrations begin to crystallise around specific, defined issues and people begin to build emotional committment to their particular position

(d) Phase 4: Manifest

The outward display of conflict occurs when the opposing parties plan and follow through with acts to fustrate one another.

As conflict proceeds through the stages, resolution becomes more difficult. People become more locked into their positions and more convinced that the conflict must be a win or lose situation. Read my previous post on men & women communication. This will tell you how behavioural structures are pre-conceived within gender equality. One of the best solutions that organisations advocate is through mediation. Mediation is when the 3rd party not relevant to the conflicting parties come in to act as a listener yet try to calm situation down, thereby allowing both parties to voice their displeasure out and crafting possible solutions.

I have thought of 5 basic behaviours that will help anyone resolve conflict in almost any situation you encounter. They will allow you to benefit from positive disagreement without having those disagreements escalate into out-of-control personality conflicts that damage the morale and productivity of the organisation.

These basics are:

1) Openness

State your feelings and thoughts openly, directly and honestly without trying to hide or disguise the real object of your disagreement. Don't attribute negative statements about the other person to unknown others. Use I-statements and talk about how you feel and what you want. Focus on current specifics and on identifying the problem

2) Empathy

Listen with empathy. Try to understand and feel what the other person is feeling and to see the situation from his point of view. Demonstrate you understanding and validate the other person's feelings. Comments such as "I appreciate how you feel", "I understand your feelings." and "I'm sorry I made you feel that way". Let the other person know that you are sincere in understanding his views.

3) Supportiveness

Describe the behaviours you have difficulty with rather than evaluating them. Express your concern for an support of the other person. Let him know you want to find a solution that benefits both of you. State your position tentatively with a willingness to change your opinion if appropriate reasons are given. Be willing to support the other person's position if it makes sense to do so

4) Positiveness

Try to identify areas of agreements and emphasise those. Look at the conflict as a way to better understand the entire situation and to possibly find a new and better solution. Be positive about the other person and your relationship. Express your committment to finding a resolution that works for everyone

5) Equality

Treat the other person and his ideas and opinions as equal. Give the person the time and space to completely express his ideas. Evaluate all ideas and positions logically and without regard to onwership.


Conclusion

Conflicts are never made to be simple. Its not easy. Thats why we have people voicing displeasure in their words and actions. There are also others as viewing certain conflicts as "personal attacks." Or we have groups of people who only blame people around them but not themselves. We have to be judgemental in most situations using what we label as "Emotional Intelligence". I will not dwell too much on EQ, otherwise it will be a long blog. Based on what I have wrote above, these are measures that worth considering to put words into action, knowing what classification of conflicts they belong to.

I believe successful resolution of small conflicts can diffuse the possibility of more serious conflicts and results in better relationships. Therefore to prevent conflict occurences, one has to foresee and bravely addresses the problem first. We all come from different backgrounds, adopt different values and having individual personalities. Only if we understand the fundamentals and characteristics of the other party; with patience and better understanding, the conflicting party may well turn out to be your friend. A friend in need and a friend who help you in your business and development phase of growing up to be what you really want to be.

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