Conflict Resolution Strategies

Conflict Resolution Strategies

Cooperation and setting up a mutual ‘win win’ is the aim of conflict resolution strategies.

Conflict resolution strategies encompass process factors such as effectively gathering and organising information as well as individual factors such as needs, values and concerns. Essential communication skills highlight listening, assertiveness, emotional intelligence skills and negotiation skills.

How people process information and the types of communication and problem solving skills they possess are central to how conflict develops and how conflict is either escalated or resolved.

Conflict can escalate or be resolved at different stages. For example conflict may begin with a simple misunderstanding or with faulty perceptions. Five people can be in a meeting and each one can take away a different perception of what they thought was said or done or agreed.

Gather The Facts

The first rule of conflict resolution is to avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions. Instead, keep the focus on obectively getting clear about the true facts in the situation. What has happened? What was actually said or done or not done? This first step requires accurately gathering sufficient information about all of the relevant factors contributing to the conflict. Any problem or disagreement needs to be clearly understood and defined before it can be effectively resolved.

Each party may have a different conceptualisation about the problem or a different view about “what is the problem that needs to be resolved?” For example Jo did not complete an orientation with a new employee who subsequently made a costly mistake with a major supplier. One person may say “Jo is the problem, she needs to be more responsible” another may say “the team leaders’ poor communication is the problem, because Jo thought Tim had completed the orientation.” Keep in mind the problem may not always be what you initially conclude it to be.

Listen To Understand

At the heart of conflict resolution strategies is the essential requirement for each party to feel they have been heard and accurately understood. The listening skill is your greatest asset at this stage. It is not necessary for all people to agree at this stage, the aim is to ensure each party has had the opportunity to give their essential input. Even if you do not agree with what the person is saying, it is vital to hear them out and convey your accurate understanding of what they have said. Reacting emotionally, arguing, dismissing concerns or shutting them down will only escalate the conflict.

People have different motivations and agendas. These will usually become clear as their core concerns, needs and values are discussed.

The four core areas of human differences that produce conditions for conflict are

  1. different needs of each party

  2. different values – that is what each person holds to be most important

  3. differences in perceived solutions to the initial disagreement or problem situation

  4. different concerns, anxieties or fears in the situation

How well these four key areas are managed will largely determine how effectively and quickly the conflict is resolved.

When you feel truly listened to and understood, and when your needs, values and concerns in the situation have been acknowledged, considered and validated, you are then more likely to cooperate in the process of discovering and supporting the best ways to resolve the conflict.

Cooperation

The process of resolving the conflict is framed within a “you win, I win” approach which seeks to bring each party together to develop mutual best solutions and outcomes. The focus here is on the ‘problem’ not on the individual. Find the common ground, those areas where everyone is in agreement. When you bring a creative approach to problem solving the best solutions can emerge. What difference could it make if you chose to see the conflict as an opportunity for positive change, rather than in a negative light? What benefits and improvements could be now possible? Aim to be open and flexible. Consider all possibilities and be willing to ‘think outside the square.’

If you would like to read more see what causes conflict and check back for more posts on conflict resolution strategies soon to be published.

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