Conflict resolution may take place in the home, the workplace or the courtroom, but no matter where this process happens, it can provide a peaceful solution to disagreements that might otherwise destroy relationships and organizations. Learning how to manage conflict and help all of the parties involved come to an agreeable resolution can be an important part of effective management, regardless of the size of the group that you are working with or the severity of their conflicts.
Conflict Resolution Skills
There are a few skills that can prove to be exceptionally valuable in conflict resolution and while some people are naturally born with them, they can all be learned and utilized by almost anyone through conflict resolution training. First and foremost, it is important that you are able to remain calm and focused when there is a disagreement, regardless of how passionately you may feel about the subject at hand. This means that you will need to find a way to quickly calm your nerves when you are faced with tension, so that you will be better equipped to provide logical, rather than emotional responses to those engaged in the conflict.
Next, you will need to be able to identify your emotions and manage them so that you can better express your opinions on a given topic. While it is natural for people to want to contain their anger or fear about a situation, these emotions can still cloud your thinking, even when they are well-below the surface. If you can explain to others why you feel as strongly as you do about a dispute, it will make it much easier for them to see your point of view. At the same time, if you are aware that your emotions are provoking an irrational response, you may be more inclined to understand the other person’s point of view.
Another conflict resolution skill involves taking into account the importance of your nonverbal communication cues. If you are avoiding making eye contact, showing stress on your face or gesturing emphatically, this could serve as a signal to your counterpart that you are more agitated than you really are. Arms folded across the chest or turning your back on a person suggests that you are not open to their point-of-view and can create further distance between your stances rather than helping to bring about a peaceful resolution. Meanwhile, reading the nonverbal cues of the person that you are in conflict with can give a good bit of insight into what they are thinking.
Finally, look for ways to infuse the debate with humor that both of you will be able to laugh at. This skill makes it possible to get across a point that might otherwise create even more tension and can help to put the problem into perspective for everyone involved.
Conflict Resolution Strategies
The conflict resolution process can often be a lengthy one, but if you use strategies that are aimed at providing both parties with a dignified way to end the disagreement, there’s no reason for it to go on for any longer than is necessary.
• Look For Outcomes Where Both Sides Are Winners. This might include incorporating ideas from each argument into the solution or it might mean dismissing both arguments and allowing the parties to work together to come up with a totally new approach.
• Map Out The Problem. By writing down the actual problems that need to be addressed and looking for ways to fix them as a team, you can conserve time and energy that would have been wasted arguing over irrelevant details.
• Focus On The Shared Vision. Rather than concentrating all of your efforts on resolving the differences between the two parties, look for the areas where there is agreement and work from there to reach a resolution faster.
• Keep The Discussion In The Present. If past conflicts keep coming up, they can disrupt the conflict resolution process. Make sure that any comments or questions are aimed at issues that are current and important to the task at hand and not just a rehashing of old arguments.
• Aim For Some Concessions From Every Side. If one party feels that they have been totally shut out of the final resolution, you’ll have to accept that the conflict was never really resolved in the first place.
• Avoid Competitive Language. Declaring one person a winner implies that the other party was the loser and is almost certain to create fresh conflicts. When you review what happened during the dispute or after it has been resolved, it needs to be clear that everyone came out a winner in the end.
Anytime that you are involved in a conflict, there are bound to be some residual tensions, even after a peaceful resolution has been reached. But by addressing the tension in a friendly and non-aggressive manner, you can help to bring the conflict to an end that is more final and less likely to result in long-term animosity. The end goal of any conflict resolution is for all of the parties to walk away with the sense that they have been heard and respected, even if their initial stance on a subject wasn’t a part of the final outcome. By utilizing the skills and strategies put forth here, you can help to ensure that everyone involved is able to leave with their heads held high.