Knowing how to manage conflict is a valuable skill. In the article “Habits that can make your communication go horribly wrong,” you can learn about the habits that are barriers to effective communication. When you use these styles, it can quickly escalate into conflict. It is therefore essential to have the skills to deal with conflict situations.
People react differently in conflict situations. They choose to which extent they will cooperate and how assertive they will be. Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann are two psychologists who described five conflict management strategies that most people use to deal with conflict. In each approach, you may be more or less cooperative and assertive. The secret lies in finding the most effective balance between the two.
So, let us discuss the five strategies.
Strategy 1: Avoiding
Using this strategy means that you are neither cooperative nor assertive. Confrontation creates discomfort. Resolution of the conflict gives relief. When the uneasiness of the row exceeds the potential reward of the comfort, you may choose to avoid the conflict. Although it seems like an effortless way out, the result is that nothing will be resolved.
Strategy 2: Competing
When you use this strategy, you go into conflict with the idea of winning. You assume that solving the problem is about winning. Using this strategy means that you are not cooperative but will assert yourself regardless of the viewpoint of the other. There is no room for creative solutions because you do not have a complete picture of the problem.
Strategy 3: Accommodating
You will use this strategy when you are more cooperative than assertive. You will give in to the other person’s desires and demands. Accommodating is often used to maintain harmony or to prevent disorder. Once again, the result is unresolved issues.
Strategy 4: Compromising
Using this strategy means that you are both somewhat cooperative and assertive. It is a give-and-take situation where a compromise is reached. Still, no one is pleased with the outcome.
Strategy 5: Collaboration
If you use this strategy, you are both cooperative and assertive. It is a balanced approach that allows each person to contribute positively. It creates a positive atmosphere where you can find creative solutions in constructive ways. This solution will be acceptable to all.
Is conflict bad?
Remember that conflict is not necessarily bad. It can help you listen better and change the way you think. However, the way that you manage the conflict is of the essence. A relationship can grow if you handle conflict productively. So how must you manage conflict?
Ways to manage conflict
A relationship means that two people share thoughts, feelings, and space. And each one differs from the other. It means that they will not agree on everything. Conflict is part of a meaningful relationship. It shows that the relationship needs to change and grow. If it is managed healthily, it can improve communication and mutual understanding.
Separate the person from the problem.
The fact that you do not like the specific behavior of someone does not mean that you must hate the person. Sometimes your partner or friend can act thoughtlessly but still have many good qualities. Remember that nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes. Focus on the behavior and do not become personal in an attack.
Listening is such an important skill. Do not immediately attack the person in a conflict situation. Listen, ask appropriate questions, and respond with “I hear that you…” messages. People want to feel heard. If you listen and understand her, she will calm down and have trust in the process again. Be a calming agent.
Remember that your response to the conflict can intensify or ease the problem. Telling someone to calm down will most probably escalate feelings. However, modeling calm behavior will invite the person to follow suit. It is best to calm down before even starting to address the problem.
With disagreements come feelings.
It is impossible to put emotions aside. However, you can learn how to deal with your feelings in a way that is not a communication stopper. You must be aware of your own emotions and identify the other person’s feelings. It will be easier to understand and meet her needs. And always acknowledge and validate her feelings.
Model neutral language
Neutral language is about what you say and how you conduct yourself. It excludes name-calling, profanities, and harsh words. Also, be aware of your body language. Keep your body open and breathe slowly.
Share and be specific.
When you share your views and feelings, you must be clear and specific. Once again, it is good to use “I” messages to state your emotions and your needs.
Focus on the future
The focus of conflict resolution is always on the future. Ask yourselves how you will manage the issue differently in the future. When you can find a workable solution, you can resolve the conflict.
Disrupt The Script
It is essential if you have a fixed pattern of conflict and find that it does not lead to a solution. Do not dwell on the past and go back to previous issues repeatedly. You must realize that you need to move ahead and try something new. Getting out of your rigid thinking patterns can allow for fresh ideas. And a little humor always makes things better.
Keep in mind that each one has their viewpoint. But it would be best if you worked together to solve your issues. Be aware of differences but focus on the similarities that can strengthen the relationship. Commit to listening and finding a solution. Think out of the box and be creative in your answer.
Remember, conflict is not a war. You do not need to attack each other to survive. If both parties are committed, you can find a workable solution.
So, how do we how manage conflict?
A caring approach to conflict resolution.
The main steps in conflict resolution are as follows:
- Open communication
- Active listening
- Reviewing options
- Finding a solution
- Implementation and tweaking
You can follow the process in the image below.
So, let us go through this process.
- Find a place where you will not be disturbed or distracted. Have enough time available.
- The first person gets 2 minutes to explain her feelings and ideas using “I” messages. The second person is not allowed to interrupt but must listen actively. After two minutes, she can ask questions using “I hear …” statements to make sure she understands correctly.
- The second person gets 2 minutes to explain her feelings and ideas using “I” messages. The first person is not allowed to interrupt but must listen actively. After two minutes, she can ask questions using “I hear …” statements to make sure she understands correctly.
- When both parties understand each other clearly, it is time to find solutions. Each writes the answer they think of down on paper, and when both are done, you compare notes. A satisfactory solution may be one that both thought of. Now is the time for creativity, compromise, and humor.
- Implement the best solution and evaluate the outcome. If it does not work, you must go back to the drawing board and start the entire process all over. Repeat this until you find a suitable solution.
Conflict resolution seems like challenging work, and it is. However, having good relationships make it worth your while. The more adept you become in the process, the easier it becomes.
So, how to manage conflict? Nobody has perfect communication skills, and sometimes we lose our temper. But you can come back to these ways to resolve disputes repeatedly. And please share it with all your friends and family.
Do you have a suitable method to resolve conflict? Please share it below so that we can all benefit from your experience!