When people are confronted with conflict, the available styles of dealing with it are accommodating, forcing, avoiding, compromising or collaborating with each other. What might be the most appropriate manner of reacting often depends on the circumstances, our personalities, prior interactions and the political or economic power one has over the other.

Conflict happens when people disagree about something. Despite the fact that we have a lot of similarities, as long as everyone is different from everybody else, we will have conflicts. It happens, and it is a natural part of life and work. In order to have productive and constructive interactions, there must be informal processes, skills and techniques for approaching and resolving disagreements. Negotiation is one such informal, non-violent means of achieving resolution or satisfaction of important needs.

Conflict can be positive and healthy, as well as a learning and growing experience. When conflict is dealt with in a positive way it can be helpful to our personal needs and purposes. Unfortunately, conflict also has a negative impact when people not only disagree but cause hurt feelings and fracture relationships. There are options for finding a better way to manage or deal with conflict. This can be a first step on the way to improving communication, solving a problem, and building trust and cooperation. This is what you can do:

Assure a fair process. The process of interaction is just as important as the outcome. People tend to react positively when they believe they are being treated fairly; when they feel their concerns are being heard; and when they feel the game rules are neutral and fairly applied. When people believe the process is fair they are more willing to accept and support the results.

Don’t react. Take the necessary time to cool down and resist the natural instinct. Anybody can become angry – that is easy – but to be angry with the right person and to the proper degree and at the appropriate time and for the right reasons is not so easy. Give yourself the gift of time to think. This can assist you in remaining focused on identifying and discussing the real needs and interests of people, and it can also help them work past the emotional stress of the moment.

Jul-Sep 2014 issue

International Center for Compassionate Organizations