Conflict management skills

In our everyday lives, every discourse and every thing that we do with other individuals, disagreements arise that often lead to conflict. This may be due to the differences in our personal beliefs, perspectives and upbringing. The human psychology has a built-in system that processes how we deal with opposing interests and conflicts.

Conflicts have been in existence since the beginning of recorded history; they exist from the micro-level of the society up to its macro-level. Some of its causes can be attributed to disagreements and differences in ideologies or border disputes between countries that often lead to long-term war or petty fights over financial difficulties or broken relationships.

The definition of conflict differs between the areas or fields wherein it is used. For example, conflict as used in political terms may refer to the existence of dispute or state of hostility between and among two or more assemblies of individuals. In human resource management, it refers to the clash of interests between employees or among members within an organization. In still another usage of the term, it refers to a competition between two parties trying to outreach the other in terms achieving their own inconsistent goals.

Conflicts usually start with a verbal exchange and usually escalate into armed fighting, like what happens between two armies in armed conflicts. Conflicts are categorized into many forms such as; interpersonal conflict, group conflict, international conflict, inter and intra-societal conflicts, diplomatic and economic conflicts.

The conflict between Jen and Eric has root causes. Therefore, the two of them must attempt to meet each other’s wants in-between, hoping that eventually their dispute could be resolved. This process of settling differences can be termed as dispute resolution. This usually involves two or more groups of people with difference in opinions and perspectives regarding certain issues. A resolution happens when one who belongs to another side listens to the other side’s wants and provides for its realization, and vice versa. Conflict resolution is a process that needs to be taken step by step so that an orderly settlement can be reached.

The conflict in this case springs from the fact that both Jen and Eric fail to hear each other’s sides and wants. The conflict scenario emerged from financial difficulties experience by the couple, specifically over their bills, aggravated with the fact that they cannot agree over its total leading to the opening of sources of “sub-conflicts.”  Sub-conflicts being petty arguments irrelevant to the main cause of conflict but are taken as defenses in order overthrow the other side’s argument.

In this case, arising from frustration over the disagreement on the issue regarding their bill, Jen touched the topic that Eric is not interested in everything that Jen does. Jen tried to catch Eric’s attention by showing him her assignments, but to Eric’s perception Jen’s actuations were a sort of ploy to take his attention away from the computer.

This creates a new dilemma that needs to be settled aside from the fact that they still have a disagreement over the bill. Yet, still another disagreement arose from the fact that Eric tried to throw a cockroach away from their premises but to Jen’s perspective, Eric threw the cockroach at her. Conflicts accumulated from a main conflict event that wasn’t resolve at the earliest possible time.

So there is a need for conflict resolution every time conflicts arise in order to prevent untoward consequences.

In this conflict scenario, certain conflict resolution skills were employed by Jen and Eric, although the main cause of disagreement was not immediately resolved at that particular instance. At first, the disagreement over the bills could have been settled immediately if not for a certain personal issue that was raised that clouded the over-all picture of the problem, particularly Jen’s reaction.

At the point that Eric was trying to reconcile Jen’s summation of the total bills with Eric’s, Jen raised the issue that Eric was not interested in anything that Jen does. This inflamed the situation, and instead of resolving the primary issue, their attention was focused on this issue.

Although both parties wanted to resolve the issue, the conflict resolution skills that they employed were not complementary to each other. Eric wanted to attack the problem by reconciling their differences through reconciliation of their summation by using a calculator.

This is called as the skill of Appropriate Assertiveness. Jen employed the Willingness to Resolve conflict resolution skill wherein she tried to name a personal issue that prevents them from hearing each other’s side, in this case, Eric’s apathy to Jen’s action of showing him her assignments. She just wanted someone to hear her and talk to her. In essence, she just wanted to connect with Eric, to communicate to him. But Eric’s inattentiveness showed otherwise.

The skill of Managing Emotions was employed also by both parties, as when Eric expressed his frustration over the seemingly inconsistent bills, while Jen expressed anger over Eric’s inattentiveness. These actions have a constructive effect because, if these feelings are used wisely, they produce positive results that may result in the resolution of the said conflict.

One can find a variety of conflict resolution skills by researching. One particular organization that can be found through the Internet, the Conflict Resolution Network, provides workshops and trainings on how to resolve conflicts. The organization developed twelve conflict resolution skills that help in resolving a particular conflict in any given field. One can use a particular skill for a certain problem, or use different skills over a problem. One skill can be effective to several types of conflict, or different conflict resolutions skills are suited to each and every conflict. The possibilities are endless.

The twelve conflict resolution skills are; 1) the win-win approach, 2) creative response, 3) empathy, 4) appropriate assertiveness, 5) cooperative power, 6) managing emotions, 7) willingness to resolve, 8) mapping the conflict, 9) development of options, 10) introduction to negotiation, 11) introduction to mediation, and, the last but not the least, 12) broadening perspectives. The Conflict Resolution Network has this website; www.crnhq.org.

Although majority of these conflict resolution skills were not used in the conflict scenario between Jen and Eric, others were used that proved to be helpful in at least lessening the tension between. We can surmise that, in some ways, the use of some of these skills prevented the conflict from exploding into a verbal tussle, or at worse physical violence. Using one’s physical strength to settle a conflict is unnecessary. Yet this happens, in fact we know that violence in marriage is one of the leading causes of divorce today.

The conflict between Jen and Eric, although a trivial one, could lead to this eventuality if the conflict goes out of hand. We cannot predict the outcome of any conflict, it may be violent or just a small ripple in a relationship. But ripples grow into bigger ones, thus conflict resolution techniques must be used to check and regulate the outcome of a particular conflict.

For the conclusion, conflict resolution skills should be learned and enhanced in every individual as well as in organizations. These skills have positive benefits that can contribute to the welfare of all. At the macro-level, wars and armed-conflicts between nations and feuding factions could be ended just by conversing with each other on a conference table sans the guns, grenades and weapons of destruction. At the micro-level, personal disagreements between individuals, friends, couples, employees and their employers could be settled immediately.

To take one solution to conflicts, individuals must adhere to a win-win approach wherein, instead of bickering, they cooperate, say each other’s claim and place these on the table so that every one can assess and provide solutions that would benefit everybody.

The case between Jen and Eric provided exemplified a conflict scenario common to us all, and helped us in the proper application of the different conflict resolution skills. These resolution skills can further be modified to apply to complicated conflicts. Yet, mastery of the skills would be the start of all. Proper application follows later.

These skills are significant in the sense that we have a procedural, step by step course of action when conflicts arise; thus, preventing the added frustration, difficulties and tension between two parties in dissent with each other. Moreover, these skills foster amity and camaraderie as the end results.

Web Reference:

Conflict Resolution Skills (2006) Conflict Resolution Network [Internet].

Available from: http://www.crnhq.org/twelveskills.html [Accessed 11 March 2007].