Conflict occurs when two or more parties fail to agree on matters of interest to all of them. Conflicts can have some undesired effects especially if allowed to escalate beyond a certain level. However they may have beneficial outcome if handled properly and may help the conflicting parties to improve on their relationship.
I have severally been caught up in conflicts on a personal and group level. In one of those instances I was in a team with seven other class members and we were to undertake a joint class project that required us to undertake several activities including experimenting with children (with their parents permission and presence) among other activities. I was of the opinion that we carry out the entire project in pairs and later bring together the reports for comparison.
My argument was that this would allow everybody an opportunity to fully participate in the exercise because otherwise it was possible for one to be inactive and hide in the bigger group and therefore not gain much from the exercise. To me this sounded like a perfect idea.
However the idea was not popular and amazingly the majority didn’t see eye to eye with me. Only one other team member saw the sense in what I was suggesting. We therefore resolved that we Just do everything together as a whole. Apparently some group members were almost always unavailable for the activities and in the end I was proven right.
It was an educative experience and I learnt that in a group one member couldn’t make decisions for the rest no matter how sensible his/her idea was. I learnt that in a group there are bound to be people with differing opinions, beliefs and goals.
They all have to be heard and a resolution reached through negotiation and consensus building. I also learnt that communication breakdown is one of the major causes of conflicts in a group. In my case I had assumed that everybody was going to see the sense in my suggestion and did not bother to explain to individual members and when I brought the idea across, it was viewed with suspicion by others and others outrightly misunderstood it. Had I taken time to discuss it with individual members, then it would have been easily acceptable.
Conflict does not always result in negative outcomes. A conflict situation can be transformed through the adoption of a collective view where all parties learn to communicate and respect others’ opinions. When parties in a conflict resort to discussion the situation can be used to relieve tension and improve relationships for future collaboration.
Dana, Daniel. Conflict Resolution. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2000.
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