For the 3rd and final post highlighting the Office of Quality Improvement & Office of Human Development (OHRD) at the University Wisconsin I want to first list their definition of conflict:
a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns.
When considering perception and how it becomes part of conflict, it is could benefit you looking at 'perceptual filters' which can influence our actions in a conflict. OHRD lists five factors that can shape these filters:
Culture, race, and ethnicity: Our varying cultural backgrounds influence us to hold certain beliefs about the social structure of our world, as well as the role of conflict in that experience. We may have learned to value substantive, procedural and psychological needs differently as a result, thus influencing our willingness to engage in various modes of negotiation and efforts to manage the conflict
Gender and sexuality: Men and women often perceive situations somewhat differently, based on both their experiences in the world (which relates to power and privilege, as do race and ethnicity) and socialization patterns that reinforce the importance of relationships vs. task, substance vs. process, immediacy vs. long-term outcomes. As a result, men and women will often approach conflictive situations with differing mindsets about the desired outcomes from the situation, as well as the set of possible solutions that may exist.
Knowledge (general and situational): Parties respond to given conflicts on the basis of the knowledge they may have about the issue at hand. This includes situation-specific knowledge (i.e., "Do I understand what is going on here?") and general knowledge (i.e., "Have I experienced this type of situation before?" or "Have I studied about similar situations before?"). Such information can influence the person's willingness to engage in efforts to manage the conflict, either reinforcing confidence to deal with the dilemma or undermining one's willingness to flexibly consider alternatives.
Impressions of the Messenger: If the person sharing the message - the messenger - is perceived to be a threat (powerful, scary, unknown, etc.), this can influence our responses to the overall situation being experienced. For example, if a big scary-looking guy is approaching me rapidly, yelling "Get out of the way!" I may respond differently than if a diminutive, calm person would express the same message to me. As well, if I knew either one of them previously, I might respond differently based upon that prior sense of their credibility: I am more inclined to listen with respect to someone I view as credible than if the message comes from someone who lacks credibility and integrity in my mind.
Previous experiences: Some of us have had profound, significant life experiences that continue to influence our perceptions of current situations. These experiences may have left us fearful, lacking trust, and reluctant to take risks. On the other hand, previous experiences may have left us confident, willing to take chances and experience the unknown. Either way, we must acknowledge the role of previous experiences as elements of our perceptual filter in the current dilemma.
You can learn more about this and other topics on conflict from the OHRD site [here
Jeff Thompson is a certified international mediator. He is also a law enforcement detective in New York. His law enforcement role include a being a communication and conflict specialist, interfaith dialogue, developing and implementing community engagement programs, and designing training workshops.
Jeff is currently a PhD candidate researching nonverbal communication and mediation at Griffith University Law School. He also received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Creighton University School of Law. Jeff has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally and has been published and featured with numerous international media organizations. He currently writes also at PsychologyToday.com.
(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions as a mediator and not that of any organization.)
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