IT IS an unfortunate fact that whenever two or more people come together, there is always the possibility of conflict.

This is bound to occur because as human beings, we have differences in opinion and ideas, and we want to believe and convince others that our opinions and ideas are better than theirs.

It is crucial to understand that just because someone does not agree with you does not necessarily mean they dislike you.

If you want to improve your ability to resolve conflict amicably, first overcome some of the myths associated with conflict.

 

Conflict myths

•  Myth 1: Conflict is always negative

Although conflict can be unpleasant at times, it can be a great catalyst for positive change.

Further, when there is a conflict, it suggests that the other party is actually giving a different perspective on the situation. 

Take the cue from American writer Walter Lippmann, who succinctly said: “Where all think alike, no one thinks much.”

 

•  Myth 2: Conflict is always violent

It is possible that, if not managed properly, conflict can escalate into violent behaviour.

However, if the parties to the conflict have a far-sighted perception of what their primary objectives are, it is possible to manage a tense situation objectively, leading to a peaceful and productive conclusion.

To overcome any conflict that you face with your colleagues, customers or other people in your life, you need to equip yourself with some powerful conflict resolution strategies to explore and understand the inherent differences that others have, and use them to interact in more positive, productive and meaningful ways. 

 

Set the stage to resolve conflict

When resolving a conflict, it is imperative to pay attention to some intangibles that may affect the direction towards which the conflict is heading. 

To resolve conflict amicably and objectively, create an effective atmosphere by setting some ground rules on how the parties should communicate with each other and neutralise any possible form of toxic emotions that may rear their ugly heads. 

This can be done by identifying the needs and wants that all the parties to the conflict are aspiring towards.

Once you have done this, you need to focus on the root cause of the conflict and find some common ground that all the parties find acceptable.

 

Apply the TKI model

The next phase to resolving conflict is to develop a model of an ideal conclusion that is supported by the parties in the conflict.

In the 1970s, psychologists Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann came up with a five-style model to resolve conflict. Called the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI), its practical application to resolving conflict has stood the test of time.

Fundamentally, the TKI model suggest that the parties to a conflict should consider the merits of the outcome they want most.

As such, there is no one ideal solution but five possibilities or styles as Thomas and Kilmann suggested:

 

1

 Collaborative

The first style of conflict resolution is to work on a collaborative approach.

Here, the parties work together to develop a solution option that puts them in a win-win situation. This style can be used for important and long-term decisions and where time is not of the essence. 

 

2

 Competing

However, if a decision has to be made quickly and might prove unpopular then the competing style may be used.

Here, the person in conflict has to take a firm stand and compete with the other party. This can be perceived as aggressive, should only be used sparingly and if possible, be avoided.

 

3

 Compromising

The third style is the compromising approach, where each person in the conflict is prepared to give up some of their grievances and contribute towards the resolution.

This style is usually workable when the parties to the conflict are equally matched and they are more interested in resolving the conflict rather than wanting to “win”.

 

4

 Accommodating

A more passive and peaceful style is the accommodating approach.

This style is beneficial in situations where the parties are more interested in maintaining the relationship than just winning and the conflicting issue is one which is important to one party and not to the other, so the latter is prepared to give in. 

 

5

 Avoidance

The last style is avoidance of conflict at all cost.

This occurs typically when the conflict suggests deep-rooted beliefs and issues that cannot be solved by discussion alone. Further, the issues may be trivial and simply a reflection of the individual’s idiosyncrasies.

If you are in this type of conflict situation, you may want to be magnanimous and avoid confrontation.

By doing so, you may sow the seeds of developing a more meaningful relationship by accepting the different beliefs people have and not judging them unnecessarily.

As American philosopher, psychologist and physician William James said: “Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make a difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”

 

Article by Sandra Daniel, a senior lecturer and regional trainer who designs and delivers training programmes for universities and corporate organisations. She is also a managing partner of Lateral Solutions Consulting LLP and the author of four books. For details, e-mail sandradaniel@live.com.sg or visit www.lateralsc.com