What is Conflict Management?
Without skilled conflict management, even the smallest disputes can grow to seemingly insurmountable heights.
In short, conflict management is the long-term management of intractable disputes so that they do not escalate out of control and the worst cases, potentially become violent. The challenge is in the fact that simmering resentment, mutual blame for ongoing problems, poor communication, and other deep issues often underlie arguments and make conflict management all the more difficult.
For instance, when parties have a long history of mistrust and suspicion, they tend to assume that the other party is completely unreasonable and acting out of spite. Even in the workplace, misunderstandings, power struggles, and stress can cause conflict to fester and take a toll on productivity.
So how can parties who no longer trust one another jointly make smart decisions for themselves and others?
The best conflict management processes and systems confront conflict directly. Here is some advice to help you improve your conflict management skills:
If you’re attempting to find a resolution on your own, try to allow for the possibility that your counterpart is capable of being rational and reasonable, and look at the causes of conflict from his or her point of view.
When a negotiator balks over seemingly unimportant details, try to get to the root of his or her concern. Deep-seated issues related to respect and identity could lie at the heart of the matter, and may need to be discussed before moving on to more substantive matters. This is as true in a high-stakes negotiation as it is in solving minor disputes between friends or coworkers.
Avoid the temptation to escalate tensions, as well. If a counterpart takes a tough opening stance in a negotiation or conflict management process, most people tend to escalate the situation with a bold move of their own, such as filing a lawsuit or taking the dispute public. Keep your negotiations private as much as possible, remain aware of your varying conflict styles, and offer token concessions to demonstrate your good will.
To find out more, download the New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation where you can learn how wise negotiators extract unexpected value using an indirect approach to conflict management.
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