Unfortunately, interpersonal conflicts are an inevitable part of our lives. However, is it «unfortunately»? What is the conflict? A clash of interests, points of view, etc. Moreover, a world without conflicts would most likely mean the sameness and impersonality of the people inhabiting it; however, one could hardly call themselves people. Therefore, it is not the conflicts themselves that are terrible (although, naturally, a significant part of them would be avoided – those that flare up, in essence, for insignificant reasons, pulling the chain of past grievances and misunderstandings). Much worse is our inability to «properly dispose of» the possibilities that appear at the same time and get out of a conflict situation at least without losses – and possibly with a win.
Conflict is one of the most complex emotional situations in life. Whether loved, despised, or a stranger, conflict causes anxiety, increases tension of blood and causes inconvenience. Some people put in great efforts to avoid it, while the others seem to be willing to quarrel at any moment. The majority prefers to solve everything peacefully, but they are ready to enter into conflict if necessary.
How do psychologists look at the conflict, as usual, decomposing it into components and systematizing the most likely scenarios? Conflict is an interaction between people (suppose for simplicity that there are only two participants). The participants in the conflict are called the initiator and the defendant, and it must be born in mind that in the course of a dispute, the interlocutors may repeatedly change roles. It also highlights the situation (the conditions in which everything happens), the subject of the dispute and the condition of the participants. If the importance of the subject (because of what, in fact) and the states («see what I am doing?») Is undeniable, then the significance of the situation may not always be realized. But, for example, the need for further joint activities can both complicate (if the issue is so fundamental that no one is able to give in) and simplify the resolution of the dispute (awareness of the need to constructively settle the situation with an eye to interact further if it is inevitable anyway).
There are five possible options for unconstructive actions in a conflict situation: avoiding conflict, smoothing the conflict, finding a compromise, confrontation, coercion. 1. Avoiding resolution of a conflict, collision, transfer to another topic – that is, avoidance of solving a problem. In fact, this is just a postponement of the conflict – perhaps, over time, everything will settle down by itself, or it will be possible to weigh everything, etc. In fact, in most cases, participants simply get a deferment, after which they still have to face the problem face to face. 2. Smoothing the conflict – one of the parties can outwardly agree with the claims, while internally fully or partially remaining convinced that he is right. With this action, we simply try to reassure the partner, in fact, as in the first case, transferring the resolution of the issue into the future. The negative side of this approach is that we seem to let the partner understand that they agree with him, but after some time he may find out that this is not the case. 3. Compromise – finding a solution acceptable to both parties. On the one hand, such an approach implies a more or less open discussion of the problem and relieves tension, on the other hand, it often follows the principle of “neither ours nor yours”, leaving the participants still unsatisfied with the decision.
4. Confrontation involves a collision, in which participants insist on their own, not taking into account the position of the other. May follow the accumulation of one of the parties a sufficient number of claims (perhaps small, but already in a fair amount). There comes a time when the “cup is full” and the initiator makes serious complaints, often without expecting to receive an acceptable answer. But even in this situation, you can find a positive side – the confrontation can reveal partners, give them the opportunity to look at each other (and themselves) in a new way. 5. Coercion – behaviour that is considered the most unfavourable. This refers to direct imposing on another the option of resolving the situation that suits the initiator. The positive side is the ability to resolve quickly the dispute (if, of course, there is a real opportunity to “do it in my opinion”), the negative ones are all the rest. Naturally, it is precisely this behaviour that is most affected by the “weaker” side, and the initiator should always consider the possibility that the next time the current defendant may try to take revenge. 6. Cooperation – in contrast to the compromise involves not mutual concessions (as if both are in the relative minus), and joint activities and development. And a little about the behaviour in a conflict situation of representatives of various personality types. Cognitive types are more likely to respond to care.
In a conflict situation, they tend to explain, listen, build mental patterns to substantiate their own point of view. “Thinkers” are most sensitive to contradictions affecting the value sphere, or to conflict situations in close relationships. The communicative type is usually not prone to dragging out conflicts, because communication plays a primary role for him. “Interlocutors” are often ready to smooth over the conflict or to seek a compromise on the principle of “thin peace is better than good quarrel”. However, in the dispute “interlocutors” are very sensitive to how others evaluate their emotional sphere and communication skills. Individuals of a practical type are naturally prone to a more active position in the dispute. Perhaps the “practitioner” is more inclined towards coercion, but also towards cooperation (not compromise). Susceptible representatives of the practical type to assess their professional success, their activities, etc.
In conclusion – about the so-called “I-message”. “I-message” is a great way to convey to the interlocutor some information, to communicate about his or her own feelings in this situation. So we say: “When you …, I feel …, because … I would like to …”. In place of the dots, we substitute the relevant information. The first part of the “I-message” informs about the reason (a certain factor of the partner’s behaviour), the second about your emotional reaction to this factor, the third explains why this is so, and the fourth expresses the speaker’s wishes regarding the behaviour of the partner.
Consider the rules of conflict resolution in a more general aspect. Reactions in situations of dispute or quarrel are largely due to the presence or absence of third parties, the influence of the media, education and mentality. No one wants to look stupid in the eyes of others. The feeling of frustration is anger.
Unfortunately, the more intense the anger, the less chance of winning the argument! Feelings difficult to compete with cold logic! Not the one who is right is the winner. Sometimes, to deal with the conflict and to win, you have to retreat and to lose.
Considering all these, there are key tools on how to manage a conflict below
To seek the truth.
Sometimes, by already lodging a claim, it can be realized that the claims are illegal. An opponent can challenge, and the other one continues to hold on to their arguments for fear of losing. This is a bad to solve conflicts. In this case, it would be good to make a pause and think of what is more important, to insist on your own or to keep relationships, career and so on.
To be ready to view the problem with in different eyes.
It is not necessary to come along with the opponent to see his prospects, but the argument can be won by looking at the situation through the eyes of an opponent. But, if you are eager to deal with the conflict, you should be able to understand well the view of the situation and the arguments of your counterpart.
It is important to understand the motivation of the other part.
Perhaps they feel annoyed, scared, and anxious or know something that needs to be done differently. Anyway, the expression of sympathy will reduce the intensity of passions and help to come to some kind of a common solution.
To be about to refuse from prejudice.
The worst thing you can do in a conflict situation is to get defensive. It is important to create a feeling in your opponent that s/he is heard. Then the other side will perceive the proposed solutions as more reasonable. Leaving the right to everyone to speak out, we help to resolve situations in a natural way.
When one of the parties is calm in the midst of a quarrel, it only gains points, showing a high level of self-control.
If you lose patience and start to get annoyed, then you will only provoke your opponent to respond to aggression. Therefore, your conflict will flare up. Do not be afraid that your external calm can be interpreted as a manifestation of the weakness of your position. You will win by keeping your feelings under control, easing the emotional intensity of the opposing side. In addition, it may very well be precise because you both look at the situation more soberly and impartially, you will be able to come to a compromise. In addition, in some cases, even recognize that your dispute is meaningless. Who knows, a quarrel can end there and then when both parties have taken a calmer and more reasoned position.
A heartfelt faith that a conflict can be solved.
Conflict, by definition, includes negative emotions. Shouts or swearing strongly wreaks havoc on self-esteem. However, faith allows you to think more clearly and usually leads to the understanding that you can win the argument simply by the power of conviction. Nevertheless, the mood that the conflict will be exhausted allows us to think more clearly. Moreover, this means that our argument becomes more convincing. Sometimes we begin to generate new, non-standard ideas. As soon as we believe that there is a way out of a conflict situation, it ceases to seem intractable. The most important thing we should remember is that winning a dispute does not always mean that we are right. If our aim is to bring about resolution to the dispute, a so-called loss in perspective can often mean a real gain.
Hope allows you to come up with a creative solution to the dispute underlying the conflict.
That is, the output appears when there is confidence in it. The moment of agreement can lead directly to victory.
Respect your opponent. There is no winner in some conflict situations. You can obtain a result, however the situation as a whole will become even worse. Do not let it happen so the basis of relations was destroyed. Do not abuse your opponent. In case you never see this psomeone over again, it is still important to show that it has nothing to do with you personally in the dispute.
Many disputes leave only the illusion of victory. Yes, you can formally insist on your decision, but it will cost you your relations being spoiled. Therefore, whatever happens, never humiliate your opponent and give him/her no reason to think that you do not consider what s/he thinks. Even if this is a person whom you will most likely never see again, show respect for this person and try to make it clear that you have nothing against him/her personally. You just have a different point of view on this issue.
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION. This article was published in Alternatives, Vol. 15 (April 1997). Copyright © 1997 by the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution, 366 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017-3122.As...By Judith Cohen
We mediators play midwife to decision making. We patiently assist in an arduous and sometimes painful process while parties labor, struggling to make the right choices in difficult circumstances. We...By Diane J. Levin