The word “conflict” often draws up images of two boxers in a ring, Mommy and Daddy yelling at each other and other aggressive or scarring images. People generally don’t have a positive view of conflict, and to be frank, conflict is never going to be a warm blanket in front of a fire place to keep you warm on a winter’s night. But what if I told you conflict wasn’t all bad?
Conflict is a part of life. Everyone is unique and as such we hold different positions on particular issues and will eventually clash with one another. Conflict is the byproduct of human interaction — it’s inevitable. That is why it is important to effectively deal with conflict, not with fists or yells, but with conflict resolution skills. It’s surprising to some, I’m sure, but sweeping issues under the rug is not the all-applicable solution to any and all problems.
There are several common styles for conflict management. These include collaborating, compromising, accommodating, avoiding and forcing. Each of these styles has its benefits and drawbacks, but the key is that no one method is appropriate for every situation.
First, the problem-solving or win-win philosophy of collaborating is based on the concept that two heads are better than one. Individuals using the collaborative method express their views while allowing others to do the same. Differences are welcomed so that the concerns can be identified and the search for a solution can begin. This works if there is time and a desire to work out a solution that satisfies everyone, and if you care about others in the scenario. However, if you need a resolution fast or if you don’t care, this would not be your best option.
Compromising allows people to meet at a half-way point. This method involves bargaining between the two sides and provides a little something for everyone. However, it can run the risk of being lose-lose, because no one is getting what they wanted. Compromising works if you need a quick solution and both can sacrifice something, or if you can divide the center of your conflict up between you.
When a person gives in and just accepts the other’s view, that’s accommodating. Letting someone else win means you’re putting the relationship first, but there is a cost for this conflict resolution method. Overusing this method will make you look like a doormat, and likely lead to your own discontent when you realize you are never being heard.
Avoiding conflict is the delay or avoidance of a response to conflict by either leaving or simply not dealing with the issue immediately. This view is often held when individuals believe conflict cannot be resolved effectively. Avoidance is effective if you are in a dangerous situation, the issue is something you genuinely don’t care about, or is something you care about but need time to cool off. It is unlikely that you won’t care about any conflicts you encounter and therefore it is necessary to use one of the other methods to eventually approach the issue. If there is conflict in a relationship you care about, it is important to not allow fear to prevent concerns from being voiced.
Taking charge of a situation, or forcing, is the controlling of an outcome so it is your point of view that is presented. Those who practice this method believe that in every conflict someone is right and others are wrong and are overly concerned with who is right. This is a good strategy if you need to resolve an issue quickly and is important to you that others see you are right. However, if you want to spend time with these people in the future or these are people you care about, then you are better off to allow people to feel they can discuss and disagree with you openly.
Many individuals are inclined to avoid conflict out of fear that approaching it will destroy a relationship. In some situations this is true, however, when the conflict is important to you, not dealing with it will likely just lead to a more explosive conflict further down the road. The tension rises and both parties experience the stress and resentment that fester as a result of the unresolved issue. That is why knowing what is more important — the conflict or the relationship — is critical to how you approach the situation, and “winning” an argument is not better than sweeping issues under the rug.