There is not a single relationship on earth in which conflict doesn’t exist. After all, two people can’t be expected to agree on every single thing. It would not be the norm if that was the case. Conflict is actually a normal part of any relationship – between countries, governments, business, teams, couples in a relationship, marriage, just to mention a few. It is what we go through in life that makes it so interesting at times. And when the conflict is managed the right way, it helps us to build conflict resolution skills, thus providing the perfect opportunities for personal and professional growth.
What is conflict?
In my own terms of definition, I would state simply that conflict is a situation that arises between two or more individuals in which there are disagreements, arguments and un-togetherness over their values, ideas, thoughts, motivation, perception or desires. The range of differences can be large and serious or small and trivial/petty. The human desire to be right in everything we do and say breeds the conflict which can drive you and your partner to insanity through the constant bickering and competing with one another on who is right or wrong.
What do others have to say about conflict? I consulted the learned and the experienced to get a better understanding of this thing called conflict in relationships:
From the word of God in Amos 3:3 of the New Living Translation (NLT) it says, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” In other words, God and man cannot walk together unless they are in agreement in thought, word and deed. Or, when translated into our everyday living, where there is not friendship, there can be no fellowship between the two.
The use of Collier’s Dictionary strong wording in its meaning, seem to suggest the level of intensity that can arise from conflict. It states, [“conflict is to be antagonistic, incompatible, or contradictory; to be in opposition, – n.1 a fight or struggle, especially a protracted one, war 2 sharp disagreement or opposition, as of interests or ideas; clash 3 emotional disturbance resulting from a clash of opposing impulses or from an inability to reconcile impulses with realistic or moral considerations.”]
Conflict management: unhealthy and healthy ways
Too many times we make the mistake of walking away from a conflict situation and go on with business as usual without realizing how much the other person may have been left feeling wounded. Just because that other person did not express their feelings in a convulsive and condescending manner, does not mean that they are not hurting inside.
I can think of many occasions when I personally would have had conflict with another person where I was wronged or I where I was the perpetrator. And since it would be impossible for me to list all, I would speak only of my most recent in which I found myself at variance with another co-worker on a project because both of us had differences in opinion on how the work flow should go.
Unknowingly it seems to the individual, she continued to invade ‘my space’ without realizing how much it was hurting me on the inside. The truth is, I felt pushed aside. That continued for a while until one day when I had enough, I exploded. Not at the person who was causing me the injury, but unfortunately to someone else very close to me.
When that was done, I thought to myself that was not the right approach. I quickly made it right with the
person who I had the outburst and then proceeded to report the matter by expressing my hurt, and disappointment to the department executive manager. Within the same day, a meeting was convened. Everyone, including myself said their ‘piece.’ There was an unexpectedly high level of professionalism from everyone sitting around the table. The matter I believe was resolved, because it was recognized at the end, that getting on with the project in a smooth, timely, cost effective and efficient manner must take precedence and be our main focused goal. Now work goes on, information is shared, there is more involvement and I am not left feeling evaded nor invaded.
Authors: Jeanne Segal, PH.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A. both agreed when they had this to say about:
Unhealthy responses to conflict:
- An inability to recognize and respond to the things that matter to the other person
- Explosive, angry, hurtful, and resentful reactions
- The withdrawal of love, resulting in rejection, isolation, shaming, and fears of abandonment
- An inability to compromise or see the other person’s side
- The fear and avoidance of conflict; the expectation of bad outcomes
Healthy responses to conflict:
- The capacity to recognize and respond to the things that matter to the other person
- Calm, non-defensive, and respectful reactions
- A readiness to forgive and forget, and to move past the conflict without holding resentments or anger
- The ability to seek compromise and avoid punishing
- A belief that facing conflict head on is the best thing to both sides
Management Strategies – A Gold Mine of Opportunities
Granted no two cases would be exactly alike, there are five general rules/strategic approaches that one can taken when in conflict situations as outlined in an article Leader Letter written by Dr. Scott Williams, Department of Management, RajSoin College of Business
, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio called ‘Conflict Management–Style and Strategy.’
- Forcing – using formal authority or other power that you possess to satisfy your concerns without regard to the concerns of the party that you are in conflict with
- Accommodating – allowing the other party to satisfy their concerns while neglecting your own.
- Avoiding – not paying attention to the conflict and not taking any action to resolve it.
- Compromising – attempting to resolve a conflict by identifying a solution that is partially satisfactory to both parties, but completely satisfactory to neither
- Collaborating – cooperating with the other party to understand their concerns and expressing your own concerns in an effort to find a mutually and completely satisfactory solution (win-win). more from source
In the final analysis, conflict must never be allowed to fester to the point of hostility, and malice. We’ve learned that it is a natural part of personal and professional growth and progress in your life. Do not try to avoid it, but face it with a positive attitude with a readiness to forgive and move on in love so that common goals are met.
Learn what works best for you as well as what works for others and put it into practice in an honest setting – sometimes it is necessary to reach a compromise or rather a consensus, which creates a win-win situation for both parties involved. There is so much in life that can be laughed about that can ease the pain of conflict while it create good grounds upon which sensible negotiations can take place.
What conflict situations have you been in and how did you handle it? Do you think that every conflict situation should be resolved in the presence of a third party, non subjective mediator? What other strategies you may have for resolving conflict? I would love to hear from you.
Other resources for article:
National Crime Prevention Council – Conflict Resolution 2001 Jefferson Davis Highway Suite 901, Arlington, VA 22202
Penelope Trunk: 6 Tips for Better Conflict Resolution, April 15th 2010