It is inevitable that you will encounter many different forms of conflict throughout your lifetime. In order to make appropriate decisions and gain confidence in resolving conflicts, you must be able to: * Recognize potential conflict situations before they occur * Recognize the warning signs and the sequences of events that can fuel conflicts * Predict possible consequences and stay attuned to ways to stop the conflict from occurring.
In any group, such as family, work, and school or other organizations, occasional conflict is unavoidable. For example, at school a student may debate with a fellow student about a current political issue. At home, a teenager may disagree with a parent concerning an established curfew. At work, an employee may have a disagreement with the employer about a company policy. In all cases, conflict of some sort is present.
Causes of Conflict Conflict can be caused by the external or internal circumstances of a group. External circumstances are influences outside the group, which may exert pressure on the group, causing conflicts. Internal circumstances are more often the cause of the conflict within a group. Internal circumstances are those behaviors or interactions within the group itself that lead to conflict. There are many ways in which conflicts can begin: misunderstandings, embarrassment, hurt pride, prejudice, fear, change, jealousy, insults, accusations, and peer pressures are just a few. Most of the factors or situations that lead to conflict can be classified as resulting from: * Varied perspectives on the situation
* Differing belief systems and values resulting from personal background and accumulated life experiences * Differing objectives and interests
Types of Conflict and Their Warning Signs In order to make good decisions and effectively manage conflict in your life, you must be able to recognize the warning signs of a potential conflict situation. Most conflicts belong to one of the five categories listed below: * Relationship – conflicts that occur because of strong negative emotions, stereotypes, miscommunications, or repetitive negative behaviors. Harassment is a relationship conflict.
* Data – conflicts that occur because people are misinformed or lack information to make good decisions * Interest – conflicts that result when one party in the group believes that in order to satisfy his or her needs, the needs of other group members must be sacrificed * Structural – conflicts that arise out of limited physical resources (including time), authority, geographic constraints, organizational changes, or other external * Value – when people attempt to force their own personal beliefs or values on others in a group * Strategies for Resolving Conflicts
A Leader’s Role in Conflict Resolution It is a leader’s responsibility to maintain stability in the group by quickly eliminating conflict in an objective and reasonable manner. A leader can take certain steps to deal with conflict, whether internal or external in nature. Explanation, alternatives, negotiation, counseling, investigation, and authority can all be used to diffuse conflict. How to solve conflicts within the group
* Assign a leader who is able to maintain balance and control of the group. The leader will have the responsibility of initiating meetings, assigning specific tasks and setting up guidelines for the group to follow.
* Establish the facts in a conflict. The Mind Tools website recommends gathering all the objective information regarding a problem in order for a resolution to take place . * Deal with conflicts quickly and fairly. This lets everyone in the group know that issues will be taken care of; it instills trust in the group. Address one issue at a time so focus is not lost.
* Give each member a specified role within the group. This will acknowledge the value and talents of every member and help them to work together as a team.
* Encourage everyone to speak up during conflicts. Ask for individual opinions on how to resolve a specific issue.
* Change pairings to resolve conflict. Avoid forming subgroups that always consist of the same members. Cliques are likely to develop if the same people work together all the time.
* Provide specific directives for what must be accomplished. Workers need to know exactly what is expected of them, especially when there are problems.
Group Size Two opposite tendencies exist with regard to the number of people in a group. The larger the group, the greater is the pool of talent and experience available for solving problems or sharing the effort. On the other hand as the size increases, fewer members have the chance to participate, and indeed the differences in relative participation increase to the point where one or two members begin to dominate. It thus becomes more likely that reticent members will fail to contribute, though they may well enjoy the relative anonymity a large group affords them. The smaller the group, the greater is the likelihood of close relationships, full participation, and consonance of aims. Whereas in a small group or team, leadership and other roles are likely to be shared or rotated, the formation of subgroups, and the increasing differentiation of roles in a large group will ensure the emergence of a leader.
They are of less value when everyone must accomplish the task, which is the general situation in most discussion groups. If the group is small (two or three in number), the tutor is likely to be dominant from the start. With a large group (eight or more) the divergence of aims and the need for role differentiation may push the tutor into a dominant position. However, the use of subgroups can overcome some of the difficulties of large group discussions.