This research concerns the art of conflict resolution. It dwells on all aspects of conflict resolution from the strategies, skills and the steps involved in conflict resolution. It also explains the various benefits and challenges of conflict resolution. The paper ends with the conclusion on the overview of what conflict resolution is and what it is not and whether it is important in our daily interaction.
A conflict can be defined as a disagreement by which parties taking part perceive a particular threat to their wants, interests and concerns. Conflict concerns the following concepts:
Disagreement: there can only be a conflict if there is a disagreement and a particular degree of difference between two or more parties that are involved. In this circumstance, there can be a true disagreement and a perceived disagreement which may be varying. Conflict only happens when there is a misunderstanding.
Parties involved: for a conflict to occur there should be some parties involved which may be two or more which take different sides based on perception of some issues.
Perceived threat: in a conflict people react to a perceived threat as opposed to the real or the true threat.
Needs, interests and concerns: These are majorly the threats that define a conflict. In the case of a workplace conflict, the centre of definition may be the relationship with complex and emotional desires (Academic Leadership Support, n.d.).
Conflict emanates from different perceptions in belief systems that might result from cumulative experiences in life, and variance in values and interests. The nature of conflict can also be linked to varying perspectives on the situation. Parties are constantly in conflict due the lack of common ground and overlapping interests. Conflicts can be both intrapersonal and interpersonal. Intrapersonal conflict happens within various parties in the event of lack of congruence on certain issue (Wandberg, 2005).
There are three identified sources of conflict: economic, value and power.
Economic sources: This concerns the conflict that arises from the competition for the scarce resources where each party strives to gain a lot and their behavior and motive is geared towards maximum gain.
Value conflicts: this concerns the failure of parties in terms of life, ideologies and their preferences and beliefs. An example of value conflict is an international conflict like cold war.
Power conflicts: power conflict takes place when each party would wish to assert a lot of influence over the other. This is necessitated by the fact that it is hard for one party to be strong unless the other party is becomes weak. This power struggle must have a victor and a villain. In this case, parties enter into a conflict due to the desire of one to exercise overall control.
Ineffective communication: this is another often ignored source of conflict. Miscommunication among parties may lead to a lot of misunderstanding that can result to conflict and incompatibilities (Fisher, 2000).
Interest –Based approach: this theory respects the individual difference at the same time enabling individuals to overcome the conflict.
Conflict style theory: This theory stresses the importance of cooperativeness and the assertiveness of the parties in a conflict (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse & Miall, 2011)
Since conflict resolution is an art, there are several skills that are required in resolving it. These skills are:
Getting in touch with feelings: for a conflict to be resolved parties should be willing to have attachment with their feelings; they should understand how they feel and why they feel that way so that they can be in position to communicate it to the other parties involved in the conflict.
Sharpening the listening skills: all parties should learn to listen just like they would wish to be listened to.
Practicing assertive communication: effective communication is the key to the resolution of conflict. One should clearly express his/her mind assertively.
Seeking solutions: parties to a conflict should be willing to understand each other. Conflict resolution is a give and take and no party should come with a rigid mind.
Good analysis: personal safety is important in the resolution of conflict; this implies that parties to a conflict should know when their mode of resolution is not productive (Gray &Larson, 2008).
Do not react in anger: one should manifest his/her feelings in a sober way which can minimize any chance of the conflict escalating.
Being Specific: One ought to be specific when explaining an offending event; a party should not mention his/her assumptions. This limits any chance of the other party reacting defensively.
Explain how the situation affects you: there are moments when others are inconsiderate of how other people’s behavior can affect theirs and addressing this will produce in-depth understanding.
Ask what they were thinking at the time of the conflict: this should be accompanied by the question of how they felt at that time and now. Non verbal clues should be keenly watched and direct answers should be encouraged.
Acknowledge your contribution at that time: one should accept his/her share of the situation.
There are eight major steps that can be followed in the resolution of conflict that might occur at a workplace and other circumstances where there is an interest in finding negotiated solutions. These steps do not necessarily guarantee the possibility of an agreement but they improve the chances of understanding one another and solving the conflict. These steps are:
Know yourself and take care of self: every individual should understand his biases, weaknesses and strengths.
The need for clarity: clarify the personal needs that are threatened by the conflict; it is imperative for an individual to understand his substantive, procedural and his psychological wants. It is also good to identify all the intended outcomes of the negotiations.
Identify safe place for negotiation: the place that should be identified for the purpose of conflict resolution should be spacious, private and neutral for all parties. It should also be carried out at a relevant time and the efforts of the support like the facilitators and mediators should be enlisted. Ground rules should also be agreed upon.
Take a listening stance: parties to a conflict should be willing to understand for them to be understood and for this to be achieved active listening skills are required.
Assert your needs with specificity and clarity: I-messages should be applied for clarification and should be built based on what the party has heard.
Approach conflict solving flexibly: issues in a conflict resolution should be identified, options should also be generated and brainstorming done at the same time. Parties should also be open and flexible to other alternatives.
Manage deadlock with calm, patience and respect: parties to a conflict should be in position to pay attention to the needs and interests at hand and they should also clarify their feelings.
Build an agreement that works: parties should review hallmarks of a sound agreement and they should implement and perform an evaluation of the ensure process (Academic Leadership Support, n.d.).
Conflict resolution is vital in every organization since it can empower the work environment by reducing the traditional reliance in managers to solve conflicts. Conflict resolution also enables people to listen to and consider other different ideas; it also enables people to widen their perspectives and their potential paths.
Conflict resolution is a hard task and comes with a lot of challenges some of which include the unwillingness of the other party to negotiate, the problem of power imbalance, deadlock and impasse in the course of conflict resolution and lastly multiparty dispute (Wandberg, 2005).
Since conflicts involve people’s perception of threats that often leads to a disagreement, it is a normal concern in every organization and it has the opportunity to provide various challenges and opportunities that may result to an enhanced understanding in the organization.
Whereas there are some individuals or parties who consider conflict as a negative event and a product of strange circumstance, others take it as a challenge that will enhance the looking for solutions that are outside the box. It can be concluded that a conflict is just a disagreement that may be founded on mere perceptions towards particular situation rather than the objective view of the situation.
A conflict has a lot of substantive, procedural and psychological connotation and it is always normal. Conflicts affect our lives and provide us with an opportunity to do things differently in the future. Conflicts are characteristic of all human relationship and social setting and from the above discussion; unavailability of a conflict is an indication of absence of resourceful interaction.
Academic Leadership Support. (n.d.). Conflict resolution. Office of Human Resource development –University of Wisconsin. Retrieved on 19/08/2011 from: http://www.ohrd.wisc.edu/onlinetraining/resolution/index.asp
Fisher, R. (2000). Sources of conflict and methods of conflict resolution. American University Peace. Retrieved on 19/08/2011 from: http://www.aupeace.org/files/Fisher_SourcesofConflictandMethodsofResolution.pdf
Gray, C. F & Larson, E. W. (2008). Project management: The managerial process (4th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin
Ramsbotham, O., Woodhouse, T & Miall, H. Contemporary Conflict Resolution (3rd Ed.). New York, NY: Polity
Wandberg, R. (2005). Conflict Resolution: Communication, Cooperation, Compromise. New York, NY: Capstone Press