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Lifezone Training Newsletter Nov. 09 Edition

Handling Conflict Professionally

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There are several STYLES OF CONFLICT MANAGEMENT that people use, some of which are more effective than others.

COMPETING - An individual pursues his/her own concerns at the other person’s expense. This is a power-oriented mode, in which one uses whatever power seems appropriate to win one’s own position -- one’s ability to argue, one’s rank, economic sanctions. Competing might mean “standing up for your rights,” defending a position which you believe correct, or simply trying to win.

ACCOMMODATING - The opposite of competing. When accommodating, an individual neglects his/her own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person; there is an element of self-sacrifice in this mode. Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, obeying another person’s orders when one would prefer not to, or yielding to another’s point of view.

AVOIDING - The individual does not immediately pursue his/her own concerns or those of the other person. S/he does not address the conflict. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.

COMPROMISING - The objective is to find some expedient, mutually acceptable solution which partially satisfies both parties. It falls on a middle ground between competing and accommodating. Compromising gives up more than competing but less than accommodating. Likewise, it addresses an issue more directly than avoiding, but doesn’t explore it in as much depth as collaborating. Compromising might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground position.

- The opposite of avoiding. collaborating involves an attempt to work with the other person to find some solution which fully satisfies the concerns of both persons. It means digging into an issue to identify the underlying concerns of the two individuals and to find a solution which meets both sets of concerns. This is clearly the most effective approach of conflict management. Specifically it will produce the following results:
1. Both sides win
2. Satisfaction
3. Mutual respect
4. Both parties feel enriched rather than belittled
5. Continuing effort of both parties


DIAGNOSIS is the starting point
determining the nature of the conflict.
Is the issue a value conflict? It is extremely difficult to negotiate when the conflict is in the philosophical arena. An example: a dispute over whether alcohol should be prohibited in a fundraising dance.

Is the issue a difference of expectations of each other? Understanding this type of conflict lies in the fact that each of us have different expectations which grow out of our experiences with the organization. Therefore, when we interact with others whose expectations have grown out of their own unique experiences with the organization, conflict arises.

INITIATION is the second step
The most effective way to confront another in a conflict situation is to state the tangible effect the conflict has on you. Example: “We have a concern in our committee. Due to your stand on keeping a low budget for the officer transition retreat, we are unable to have the retreat off campus, which is the desire of most members.”

ACTIVE LISTENING is the third step
Negotiators must be capable of hearing the other’s point of view.
• While listening, do not think about what to reply in order to persuade.
• Argument-provoking replies should be avoided.
• Active listening involves paraphrasing or restating what the other says. Idea or content should be considered as well as feeling.

PROBLEM-SOLVING is the final step
• Clarify the problem -- after the above steps, each party should have a clear idea about what is the tangible issue.
• Talk about what’s needed/wanted (be clear on facts and information).
• Generate a list of possible solutions. While doing this, let go of the solutions that you thought you had. Be creative! The best negotiator makes the other side feel good.
• Start by thinking, “How can I make the other side happy?”.
• Decide together on the best solution acceptable to all parties. Use consensus decision making skills. Don’t try to persuade or coerce.
• Plan the implementation of the solution. Make assignments of the who, what, where, when and how.
• Plan an evaluation or review of the solution after a specified period of time.

All five styles of conflict management obviously have advantages and disadvantages. When dealing with conflict in personal relationships, any of these types may be useful and necessary in certain situations. The last style, collaboration, however, is highly recommended for dealing with conflict in student organizations. It has the most promise of resulting in something satisfactory to both parties. People often feel proud of themselves, and feel a sense of personal power when they use this method. It’s a sign of integrity and self-confidence when one is able to use this method with patience regardless of how difficult the situation may be.

. Addressing conflict in a proactive way is a skill. Positive Actions for Resolution.

Increase Personal Confidence – understanding how to confront interpersonal conflict can help you be more assertive.

Sharpen social skills
The communication process for addressing conflict can be used in a variety of social settings.
Find resolutions – learning how to address conflict will enhance communication and lead to resolutions in a non-threatening way.

Withhold Judgments
If your intent is to find an amicable agreement, you will need to suspend personal judgments of your mentoring partner. It is best if you can keep an open mind during your discussions and not project an attitude of condescension. You do not have to agree with your partner’s position, but you must acknowledge its legitimacy and agree to disagree, or at least disagree in an agreeable way. Use “I” statements since they describe your thoughts and feelings, instead of “You” statements, which carry a judgmental tone that can be misunderstood as censure.

Communicate Assertively
Communicating assertively means expressing your needs clearly, directly and in a balanced way.
• Clear – Unmistakable messages; body language matches verbal messages.
• Direct – Timely communication focused on your needs and delivered to the right person(s).
Balanced – Respecting the needs, rights and limitations of yourself and others.

Speak Precisely

It is best to know what it is that you intend to convey so you can articulate your message as plainly as possible. Be specific and avoid speaking in generalities. Resist the urge to drag a negative past into the present situation; reference present circumstances without rehashing previous misgivings. Know the facts surrounding the situation and what you want out of the conversation before you engage it.

Remain Considerate
Avoid the appearance of haughtiness by refraining from stating opinion as fact. Be careful not to speak down to or insult the intelligence of your mentoring partner. Be patient and don’t interrupt or project anxiety by hurrying the conversation to a conclusion. Stay calm and avoid “one up” hostile messages or immediate inappropriate responses (i.e., “Oh yeah? Well you…”). If things do get heated, be willing to call a time out.

Focus Your Discussion
Clarify points of agreement before dealing with disagreements. By doing this you build a common ground of understanding, save discussion time, and locate the focus for your discussion. It is also best if you focus on one issue at a time.
If compounding or related issues come up during your discussion, you can identify them and agree to discuss them after you have completely discussed the present topic.
• By addressing your conflict with these principles, you should be able to create a positive and healthy environment.

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Compiled & Designed by Bip Parmar                      Copyright © Lifezone Training U. K.

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