Coworker Arguing in Hall

Many of the things we have been taught about conflict are wrong, resulting in responses that can make a conflict worse instead of better. A basic understanding of how conflict works can provide insight into reliable techniques for constructive conflict resolution. These four simple conflict management secrets can shed light into the operational dynamics of conflict.

Conflict Management Secret #1: People only fight about things they care about

Within any conflict, rest assured the people involved care about something. In my experience it is either an issue or a relationship.

Conflict Management Secret #2: You can only control two things: yourself and your attitude

How many times do we end up in conflict because we are trying to control someone else’s thoughts, feelings or behavior?

Conflict Management Secret #3: There is always more than one way to meet a need

The #1 mistake made in conflict management models today is an emphasis on option generation and risk assessment. The misuse of these two tools will, in fact, prolong and escalate the severity of a conflict. Without need exploration it is possible to “end” a conflict but not actually resolve it, making matters worse.

Conflict Management Secret #4: All resolutions are future oriented

It is impossible to have a resolution that is not future oriented. What most people miss about conflict mechanics is that conflict itself is fueled by the future and not the past. This is the reason why the court process and the application of law are inadequate as a resolution process.

Knowing how conflict works, it is possible to engineer a conflict management process that resolves conflict without simply ending it. Ignoring how conflict works will, more often than not, create deep dissatisfaction and, in the long run, increase the cost of conflict.

For more detail on these conflict management secrets see my book, “Understanding Conflict: What are we fighting for?” White Feather Press, 2009.

Author: Dr. Rick Voyles


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