Male hand holding a touchpad gps

Having a Conflict GPS

What if you could approach any conflict with absolute confidence, accurately anticipating reaction and response, allowing you to remove any risk to you and the organization?  When confronted with a conflict, most managers build an understanding of what happened by collecting facts and gathering each person’s side of the story.  This approach places the manager in a reactive posture.  However, approaching a conflict being able to anticipate reactions and responses places the manager in a proactive posture.

Some will think this is impossible; that no one can anticipate how someone will respond in a conflict; that individual reaction, response and perspective will produce infinite possibilities.  From an individual point of view, they would be right.  Viewing conflict from a perspective of individual reaction and response, conflict is completely unpredictable.  However, viewing conflict from a perspective of human behavior en masse, it is completely predictable.

During WWI, military testing could accurately anticipate that every solider, en masse, has a breaking point.  Yet, there were too many variables to anticipate the breaking point of an individual solider.  Knowing human behavior en masse, we can anticipate reactions and responses in each step of the conflict process, giving us techniques to address individual behavior during the conflict.

 Following a GPS is Easier than Trying to Change Someone’s Character or Perspective

Most conflict management models propose a set of positive attitudes or characteristics essential to resolution: be open, be flexible, allow compromise, use active listening, summarize back what you heard, seek understanding (before being understood), be respectful, accept differences in perspectives, etc.  These models suggest that conflict resolution is a personality trait, a shift in attitude or a change in perspective; resolution is more a matter of who you are than the application of any techniques you might obtain.  That is, you have to be a particular kind of person to resolve and/or stay out of conflict.  However, when confronted with a conflict, a much more effective and efficient way for the manager to build his/her understanding of the case is knowing the conflict process, having access to the mechanics at work within conflict.

Knowing the conflict process, knowing what to anticipate and watch for will equip the manger with a GPS that can get anyone safely through any conflict.  Having a conflict GPS offers anyone clear directions to their destination without telling them what kind of attitude or point of view is needed to get there.  The capabilities of a GPS surpass the inability of individual character or perspective.

The Conflict Process is the GPS

Looking at human behavior en masse shows us that conflict follows a very specific predictable process.  Knowing the process, you can know exactly where you are, what direction you are heading and which turns must be made to reach your destination.  Without this GPS most people become lost, grasping at any resolution model promising safe passage.  When these models do not live up to their promises, people often decide not to venture out at all.  The application of conflict avoidance (usually at any price) alleviates the fear of getting lost.  Avoidance, while alleviating fear, inevitably restricts healthy productive growth in any relationship, negatively affecting our homes, our offices, our organizations and our communities.

Next: You must know your destination in order to get your Conflict GPS to properly work.

Author: Dr. Rick Voyles

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