Conflict Resolution

Know Your Conflict Style

Maggie Kline asked:

All expert communicators have strategies for dealing with conflict. Their goal isn’t to eliminate conflict but to deal with it so that the result is growth and constructive solutions. We all have our own ways of dealing with conflict, our own styles of handling difficult situations. How do you manage conflict to minimize risks and maximize benefits? How can you handle conflict in a way that increases your growth potential? The following lists are different ways we deal with conflict in a small group:

The Avoider: Some people strive for neutrality because they are uncomfortable with anger in any form. Sometimes their avoidance creates conflict or makes a heated situation worse. Avoidance can be of benefit to you if you are not part of the problem or part of the solution. It is not always your responsibility to “fix” every conflict that arises in your home or workplace.

The Accommodator: The Accommodator tries to make everyone happy. This person’s objective is superficial harmony, not necessarily an equitable resolution of the conflict. Accommodation is preferred when the issues are minor or when the relationship would be irreparably damaged because tempers are too hot. Here the solution is only temporary.

The Compromiser: The Compromiser offers a solution which, at first glance, appears to resolve conflict. However, both sides are left unsatisfied because both give up something they

wanted. Compromise works best when time is short and both parties benefit. But it’s a less than perfect situation because everyone loses something.

The Competitor: For the Competitor, conflict is a game. Power gets this person’s attention. The competitive approach is best when all parties recognize the power relationship between themselves and know that action is imperative. Like the others, this is merely a temporary answer. This conflict returns, perhaps in a more powerful form.

The Negotiator: This person seeks consensus and works tirelessly to get it. Negotiation works best when all parties have problem-solving skills. Negotiators work to find methods satisfactory to both parties while keeping goals and values intact. This is the best remedy for communication breakdown.

The first goal in resolving conflict is to deal constructively with the emotions involved. Keep in mind that you should treat the other person with respect, listen until you “experience the other side,” and to state your views, needs and feelings. Though talking may trigger conflict, it is also the only means of resolving it.

Talking must focus on defining the problem by saying, “I hear…” looking for agreement by saying, “I agree …”; understanding feelings “I understand …”; and stating views calmly. “I think…” Some people plunge head first into conflict without determining if their timing is right to resolve the situation. Some forget to set the terms for the confrontations. Others jump into a conflict without knowing if the other person consents to the terms.

By using these methods you’ll encourage genuine and direct expression of feelings. When feelings are expressed, heard and acknowledged, they become the blueprint for productive future communication. When they aren’t expressed, heard or acknowledged, they fester. This approach can rapidly defuse emotions so differences can be discussed more productively.

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