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Mediate.com

Conflict

by Jeff Thompson
November 2009

From Jeff Thompson's Enjoy Mediation Blog

Jeff Thompson

Conflict- it goes without saying we need to understand it in order to help others engage and possible resolve it. It is important to know that people respond to conflict based on their experiences and their knowledge of conflict. Their knowledge includes how they were taught how to deal with conflict.

It is important also to know however that people approach conflict based on their personalities, culture and their particular role in the dispute. Bernie Mayer, in The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution, explains how he approaches this by detailing four significant factors: values and beliefs about conflict, approaches to avoiding and engaging in conflict, styles of conflict, and the roles people are draw to play in conflict (page 26).

I Values and Beliefs: three important questions to as yourself: Is conflict acceptable; how should people behave in conflict; and is conflict solvable?

II Avoiding and Engaging in Conflict.
How people avoid conflict:
Aggressive Avoidance “Don’t start with me or you’ll regret it.”
Passive Avoidance “I refuse to tango.”
Passive Aggressive Avoidance “”If you are angry at me, that’s your problem.”
Avoidance Through Hopelessness “What the use?”
Avoidance Through Surrogates “Let’s you and them fight.”
Avoidance Through Denial “If I close my eyes, it will go away.”
Avoidance Through Premature Problem Solving “There’s no conflict; I have fixed everything.”
Avoidance By Folding “OK, we’ll do it your way; now can we talk about something else”

How People Engage Conflict
Power Based Approaches- does not always have to be violent. Includes protests, boycotts, strikes, etc.
Rights Based Approaches- done by asserting their privilege or referring to existing laws and rules.
Interest Based Approaches- what lies behind the positions? Go ahead, expand that pie!
Principle-Based Approaches (Appeals to Fairness)-
Manipulative-Based Approaches (Indirection)- can be destructive (lie, cheat, mislead, untrustworthy behavior) or constructive. Bernie adds, exploited and unempowered people often have no alternative for addressing their needs in a conflict except to use indirection or manipulation (page39).

III Styles of Conflict
Cognitive Variables
Analytical Versus Intuitive
Linear Versus Holistic
Integrative Versus Distributive
Outcome Versus Process Focused
Proactive Versus Reactive

Emotional Variable
Enthusiastic Versus Reluctant
Emotional Versus Rational
Volatile Versus Unprovocable
Behavioral Variables
Direct Versus Indirect
Submissive Versus Dominant
Threatening Versus Conciliatory

IV Roles People Play in Conflict
Advocate
Decision Maker (Arbitrator)
Facilitator (Mediator)
Information Provider (Expert)
Observer (Witness, Audience)

The blog posting contains heaps of information and terms new to the ADR practitioner and terms common to the pro. Regardless of which one you are, or somewhere in between, further reading on these topics will help you as a the ADR professional help the parties you are working with regardless of your role as a neutral (mediator) or not (consultant). The book is available at many sites, including [here] at Amazon.

Enjoy!

Biography


Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.

Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.

He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.

(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)



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