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Resolving Conflict

March 27, 2015

SDS presentation-creationConflict happens! And when it does, the leader must be prepared to address issues between parties.  Some leaders have a low tolerance for confrontation and avoid intervening in conflict between followers.  They take the attitude, “The issue will work itself out.” Others are quick to squelch disagreement between parties by discouraging contention but not helping the individuals resolve issues.  In this case, issues linger below the surface and may be displayed through less overt skirmishes or passive – aggressive behaviors.  By being proactive, a leader can address conflict and resolve issues before they spread like a virus or escalate to war.

Conflict is a natural part of working and living with others. Sometimes conflict is positive, bringing to light different ideas, strategies and methods for conducting business.  Positive conflict can generate a creative or competitive tension that makes an organization dynamic.  Conflict can also be negative. When the competition between parties turns to fighting, or tension reaches the breaking point, people and organizations can be damaged.

For the focus of this article, conflict is defined as a disagreement between two parties over any particular issue.  The purpose of this article is to examine several of the sources of these issues, accompanying behaviors and serving as a mediator.

Sources of Conflict

People become conflicted about many things.  In any area where there is a difference, there is potential for disagreement.   Areas of potential conflict that impact people universally are: gender, age, nationality, territory, cultural background, ideology, power, resources, priorities and personality – to name a few.

Conflict Behaviors & Communication

How one expresses his or her self in a conflicting situation has a lot to do with arriving at a favorable resolution. Some individuals, in the throes of conflict, communicate passively and others aggressively.  When addressing conflict with another person, or between two parties, it’s essential to communicate in a manner most fitting for the situation.  Assertive communication usually – but not always – fulfills this need.  And, as an observant mediator, you want to watch for the signs of passive, aggressive and assertive behavior in those for whom you are serving as referee, such as:

  •  A person displaying a passive style of communication may cower in posture, voice or manner and be hesitant to ask for what he or she wants.
  •  A person showing an aggressive style of communication may threaten others in posture, voice and manner, and manipulate through labels and put downs to get what he or she wants.
  •  A person using an assertive style of communication will display composed body language, make good eye contact and negotiate clearly and directly for what is wanted.

Facilitating Conflict Resolution

In addition to recognizing conflict sources and the need for assertiveness, one must consider possible outcomes of any given conflict. Those outcomes include:

  • Lose/Lose
  • Win/Lose
  • Compromise
  • Lose/Win
  • Win/Win

When taking aim at a “desirable” outcome, one must consider the situation.  Although a Win/Win outcome sounds ideal, this scenario is hard to achieve unless both parties make that end result their goal.  If one party is determined to defeat the other, due to competition or hostility, one may have to take a Lose/Win approach.  And, while compromise may sometimes be the best choice for both parties, there are also times when both parties choose to risk all and arrive at a Lose/Lose outcome.

Serving as Mediator

There may be times when you are called upon to serve as mediator, in order to facilitate conflict resolution between parties. A mediator is generally required to be objective, responsible and approved by both parties. He or she must be detached from the conflict, understand the positions of both parties and be skilled with both problem solving and people. A mediator must be able to lead both parties in dialogue and discussion while working to develop agreement between parties and devising a mutually acceptable outcome.

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on Rich Drinon Leadership Communication and commented:

    Reasonable approach. Basic steps. But oh so hard to manage and master…

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