Conflict resolution

Most people shy away from conflict. It has bad connotations, yet does not need to be adversarial. If managed effectively, conflict can empower you and strengthen relationships.

Thought for the Week

“I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.” —Herbert Bayard Swope

What is conflict?

Conflict is an internal and/or an external state of discomfort arising from a mismatch of values, interests, or perceptions. Even when you avoid conflict with another person you may feel conflicted within yourself.

The causes of conflict can be isolated according to five categories, as depicted on the Circle of conflict (Moore). These are:

  • Relationships: miscommunication or misperceptions, high emotion, negative behaviour
  • Data conflicts: lack of information or misinformation
  • Interests: competing interests, incompatible needs or procedures, issues of trust, respect, fairness
  • Structural conflicts: external forces such as resources, time, organisational structures
  • Value conflicts: differing values and beliefs that may make a relationship harder to negotiate
The causes of conflict

Circle of conflict (Moore, 1996)

A conflict cycle may begin with feeling uncomfortable about an incident or having a misunderstanding with someone. You may feel conflicted because this challenges your view of the way things should be. This is bound to cause some tension, and depending on how you respond, your initial moment of discomfort could cause further tension or escalate to a crisis point.

Conflict resolution

To resolve conflict you need to tune in to the clues before a reaching a crisis point. Your body gives you clues about the level of tension and discomfort you are experiencing; your thinking may take on a one-eyed perception of a situation and may become inflexible to other explanations and interpretations; and your actions may not help the situation.

Productive conflict resolution characteristics include openness, empathy, and being respectful, supportive and positive (difficult to do when you are experiencing high emotion).

Communication skills allow you to explore the conflict in an open and constructive way so that you can map the differences, generate options and cooperate on an issue with a new understanding.

Assertiveness skills are important in diffusing a conflict and not allowing yourself to pushed around. Reacting to a situation rather than making a measured response may generate further conflict.

Planning can help you to develop an awareness of potential issues and where differences may exist.

Contact Linda Magson, Sydney counsellor, coach and consultant about your conflict resolution needs.