The human nature involves social interactions which more than often can result to conflict due to difference in interests and understanding concerning a given issue. Conflict is a common form of human experiences that can produce in both negative and positive outcomes to one individual and the others involved (Cornelius, E, Faire, and Cornelius, H, 2006).
The constructive outcomes can happen through the use of appropriate strategies to manage conflict. On the other hand, people can get distress from conflict if they do not know how to handle conflict appropriately. Yet, each people have their own choices to behave in conflict in different ways based on their moods, beliefs, family influences, and conflict levels. The consequences of these reactions to conflict, either productive or unproductive can lead to some state of resolutions.
An ideal of peaceful resolution seems to be the most preferable outcome for those individuals behaving in conflict productively, though some of them are still stuck in this circle caused by lack of capacity to handle conflict effectively. There are some barriers to be managed in order to get over conflict and earn it as a great opportunity from having conflict. As Eunson (2007) suggests, as much as people experiences conflicts, they can prevent themselves from the same form of conflicts, and adapt their abilities to consider the real core, and expand their possibilities to get into some solutions.
Common approaches to conflicts
People have their own styles in common to approach to conflict. Some people choose to walk away, and leave the conflict behind. Some people choose to keep themselves in silence when conflict happens. Some of them try to control the other side and defend themselves by using their physical control, violence and aggressive verbal language. Someone choose the communication as an option to reach their purposes.
In addition, this type of approach to conflict perhaps end at the point of both sides satisfies. Oppositely, the conclusion of their conflict can possibly reach to crisis. As shown above in this paragraph, there are several personal styles of people approach to conflict. As Thomas & Kilmann (1974) point that people are likely to have one main own style behave in conflict (as cited in Eunson, 2007).
According to Thomas & Kilmann’s model of the ways people reacts in conflict, there are five main styles of approaching a conflict which includes; competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, accommodating. However, it is very hard to circle and use just the only one unique style to handle in every conflict. There are some internal and external factors that may need to be concerned in order to make a decision to approach to conflict. For instance, the situations, the emotional levels, the relationships between both parties; such as whether it’s between parents-child, brother, sister or husband-wife and different organisations. Therefore, these differences are necessarily needs a suitable and differentiated style to effectively handle a particular type of conflict (Eunson, 2007, p.
9). Those different individuals behave differently in conflict are commonly categorized into two main approaches as these are so called productive and unproductive approach. However, If conflict is organised well by people using the productive approach, this may create the positive outcomes such those feelings called relief, satisfy as well as relationship improvement, constructive changes and finally this might lead to peaceful resolutions. In contrast, bad handled in conflict or unproductive approach can produce many negative outcomes to those individuals’ experiences such as stress, resentment along with unsolved problems and finally lead to relationship fail (Cowan, 2003, p.73).
Unproductive approaches to conflicts
People are likely to be concerned more about their needs, personal interests, personalities and values as their priorities rather than the other side needed when conflict happens (Cornelius, et al, 2006, p.24). In addition to wining the other side, they might create some reactions through uncontrolled emotions and less care about the others’ feeling.
This happens when they want to prove that they are right and the others are wrong. For example, a wife may shout and blame her husband without asking for the reason why her husband got home late without calling or let her know even after she tried to call him and finding out that his phone seems had been switch off during that period of time. This may result to a fight and after a heated argument.
Precisely, the fact may be that her husband arrived at home late because he had a car accident while he was driving back home from work and the reason that he did not make a call or let her know because his phone just ran out of a battery. In this case, the wife decides to approach to this conflict with her husband by using “verbal aggressiveness and bad body language” to get over him as a first choice. As a result of this, the wife does not win besides their relationship is damaged and both of them get stressed or even depressed. In the same situation, if the wife chooses to go silent, avoid clarifying the fact as a second choice she would avoid an eventual fight.
Moreover, her mind may still keep on thinking and be frustrated and even hold a grudge against her husband. Although she does not fight nor have any argument with her husband once in this time, the conflict may be resolved. Her misunderstanding and avoiding can cause a higher level of tension and finally explode until reaching to a crisis point in later time. As Cornelius et al. (2006) suggest in conflict clues that when people misunderstand with each other and they do not communicate properly, those progressions of communicate failure can produce a high level of tension to their relationship. In this state, their emotions and their own blocked attitudes becomes significantly important than their relationship concerns.
After this, destructive actions, such as physical threat, violence, and verbal aggressive are ready to be represented as a crisis time which these actions could possibly escalate to the relationship ended. Another example of unproductive approach to conflict as Eunson (2007) suggests in his table of how people behave in conflict is the withdrawal and domination. This is an example situation of these two unproductive approaches to conflict, there is a student “A” has a conflict with his colleague called student “B” in the school. B always embarrasses A in front of everyone about his over figured body by making a joke of A, teasing and threatening A. B said if A tells the teacher about what he did to A, B will attack A.
Once A ceases not handle these anymore, then A may decide to stay home and kept himself isolated from everyone in school. The reaction that B makes decision to deal with this conflict is called withdrawal which is very close to avoidance in the angle of not to communicate anymore. A allows a problem staying in his mind which this can grow up and create an unproductive pattern of handle in conflict. According to this case, if B abuses A and uses his power in an inappropriate way to threaten B this is referred to as domination.
Overall, this paragraph defines some characters of unproductive approach to conflict together with the consequences of these reactions in return to individuals who make a choice to behave in what they concern those are right for them. As the consequences of this unproductive handle in conflict in this paragraph, those reactions tend to create the negative outcomes to individuals’ feeling and the other side involved such as stress, depression, anger and resentment. However, there is another option called productive approach to conflict in order to achieve the positive resolutions.
Productive approaches to conflict
When the peaceful resolution is a preferable outcome for those who face to conflict, productive handle in conflict is an answer. The constructive strategies conducted with understanding and consciousness by individuals used can prevent the worst scenario of negative outcomes and minimize chances to explode to a crisis state (Cowan, 2003, p.147). There are many different strategies in order to manage conflict effectively because these differences can create dissimilar consequences. As Eunson (2007) explains, there are two main zones in his conflict spiral. When the conflict has not occurred or exploded into the view of public that this is in a covert zone. Conversely, if the conflict develops the level into public, this is called overt zone.
The second zone has a strong degree of conflict such as threats, arguments, blaming, provocation and violence which these need some specific strategies to handle and manage properly. Firstly, individuals who prefer to manage conflict need to open themselves up. This means that they need to be honest to disclose their concerns. The second step involves understanding the feelings of others, concerns and the others’ point of views. This step might be difficult to do in practical because people as a human being tend to think about themselves rather than others.
However, in order to be able to understand the others’ needs and create productive communications, listening skills are required (Cornelius, et al, 2006, p.46). Active listening is the most significant strategy which this can lead to an understanding of the real context together with an acceptance in differences of the other person’s point of views. People are required to perceive voice tones and body language at the same time in order to be able to understand the real fact.
As Pease (2009) points that body language and the other circumstances such as tone of voice, facial expression can show the real persons’ feelings more accuracy rather than word itself (pp.12-13). Therefore, the best way of being empathy is needed to combine both skills of an active listening to the words along with the reading through the body language and nonverbal language. After both side cross to the step of conversation, there is a specific option of how the person is going to communicate. For example, two brothers live in the same room. Once in the evening after school, brother A wants to play computer game as well as brother B wants to use the computer for his assignment purposed.
They both start to negotiate and try to figure out for the best solution for each other. Brother B said he is going to give him some money to play this game at the internet café nearby their house for about 2 hours then brother A can come back and use this computer after brother B finish. In this case, brother B have to waste some money and brother A have to waste some time though they both still get what they want. This type of approach is called compromise which is based on the equal of getting and giving on both sides.
However, compromising may be helpful in some situations under conducted by skilled negotiators. Besides, there is a chance to happen that someone might be over giving than the others. Collaborative approach, the creation of win-win situation, is another option approaching to conflict which this can create more possible solutions by brainstorming ideas from everyone who gets involved with conflict as many as they can.
The character of this strategy needs active listening skill, an issue attentiveness, individuals identify in both side’s need including their reasons with empathy, gains a lot information then encourages people to find the new solutions together (Isenhart and Spangle, 2000, p.27). People can learn the differences of the others’ viewpoints. Moreover, the positive outcomes such as the reasonable balance in power and the valuable in long term relationship.
Managing barriers to overcome conflicts
Essentially, there are some difficulties that individuals should be aware in order to be success in managing conflict. The most two significant barriers are individuals’ emotions and interpersonal skills including verbal and nonverbal language. Firstly, when emotions have the power over people’s mind that this can lead to people tend to not being able to express themselves appropriately such as screaming, shouting, and crying. These emotions have a lot impacts on individuals to be engaged in unconstructive thoughts.
They look at the other side involved rather than issues. In this case, people would not listen to the other needs but themselves. As a result, conflict will never be resolved because the issues have been put aside caused by emotional wall set up by people. Secondly, the interpersonal skills which relate to people’s backgrounds such as families, educations, different experiences, those differences can lead to the ability to communicate effectively.
Conflict can result in both positive and negative outcomes to individuals. These depend on which options, productive or unproductive approaches that people choose as an option to behave in conflict. Good strategies such as openness, active listening, and collaborative approach can increase the chance of constructive outcomes from conflict. On the other hand, unproductive approaches such as avoiding, verbal aggressiveness, bad body language, withdrawal and domination produce the negative outcomes.
Those negative outcomes are directly effect to people’ feelings such as anxiety, depression, sadness, anger, resentment and may cause mental illness in long term effect. Unaware of their own emotional, lack of interpersonal skill and less experience in handle in conflict are concerned as the difficulties to managing conflict. In order to get over these barriers, individuals need to know and understand their own self emotional and personal styles that what is the weak or strength in them to construct the productive approaches.
Secondly, learn to accept in different perspectives by the other people or in the other word is be empathy. Adjust their attitudes about the outcomes of conflict whether good or bad, they can choose. Furthermore, encouraging their good attitudes about having conflict, the more they face and resolve conflict effectively, the more they growth, and more chances to prevent the same pattern of the conflict in the future.
Cowan, D. (2003). Taking Charge of Organizational Conflict: A Guide to Managing Anger and Confrontation. Personhood Press
Isenhart, M. W. & Spangle, M. (2000). Collaborative Approaches to Resolving Conflict. Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications
Cornelius, H., Faire, S. & Cornelius, E. (2006). Everyone Can Win: Responding to Conflict Constructively. 2nd ed. Pymble, Australia: Simon & Schuster.
Eunson, B. (2007). Conflict Management. McDougall, Australia: John Willey & Sons
Pease, A. & Pease, B. (2009). The Definitive Book of Body Language: How to Read Others Thoughts Through Gestures. Australia: Macpherson’s