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Conflict Resolution Skills

Conflicts are those unpleasant moments in everybody’s lives that not only deviate all energy into a barren sphere, but they also rob one of the most valuable asset called ‘peace’. Like fire that is waiting to be extinguished, conflicts need immediate attention before they drain out work efficiency or ruin personal relationships. To do this effectively, we need to develop a few set of Conflict Resolution Skills.

Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional – Max Lucado

This said, one need not fear conflicts as they are difficult to avoid and are bound to happen with differences in opinions. However, what’s more important is how skilfully one sails through conflicts to arrive at resolutions that nurture stronger relationships than before, both in personal and professional life. So then, let’s get set to gather some essential tips that make-up conflict resolutions skills.

What are Conflicts?

Conflicts are basically quarrels or disputes that arise because of strong arguments, misunderstandings, prejudices, or simply due to differences in ideas, notions, perceptions, or attitude. It may lead to physical or emotional abuse, mutual disrespect, and ultimately a lack of productivity.

Conflicts may preoccupy one’s mind to such an extent so as to result in immense stress. Again, stress in turn can lead to more conflicts. So, you see how a vicious cycle can form with stress and conflicts reinforcing each other and blocking one’s clear thinking, creativity and imagination. Managing conflicts therefore is a dire necessity in restoring smooth interactions and transactions.

Why do Conflicts Arise?

Conflicts may surface either due to deep rooted concerns or may simply have superficial basis to them. The causes for conflicts are infinite. However, listing out some important ones will help us know what skills to develop and how these conflicts can be tackled. Here are a few categorised reasons that give rise to disputes.

General Causes:
  • Communication gaps which also includes poor listening.
  • Lack of controlled mind-set and speaking even before thinking.
  • Trust issues due to insecurity within oneself.
  • Lack of self-esteem and being in a state of conflict with one’s own self.
Personal Causes:
  • Inappropriate attitude prevailing among one or both parties involved in conflicts.
  • Poor interpersonal skills and failing to express mutual respect.
  • Holding on to grudges and not willing to forgive and let go.
  • Finding it hard to cope with ethnic differences arising in cultural, religious, national, lingual, eating habits, or climatic issues.
Workplace-related Causes:
  • Inadequate leadership skills in teams that include lack of planning/forecast, poor staff selection, improper delegation of tasks, or mismanagement in time.
  • Unwillingness in welcoming changes or new approaches.
  • Exploitation at workplace, improper payment system, or toxic work environment.
  • Discrimination in appraisals assessing employee performance and salary increments.
Organizational Causes:
  • Not abiding by rules/ethics or opting for dishonest techniques, knowingly or unknowingly by one or both parties.
  • Ambiguity in regulations leading to chaos and confusion.
  • Not abiding by privacy policies and giving out private information without consent.
  • Competition due to scarcity of resources.

Conflict Resolution Skills

The first part of conflict resolution skills is to sense them early to prevent or minimise them. The second part is resolve them with ease using below 8 powerful skills.

Part I: Early Sensing of Conflicts to prevent or monomise

A stitch in time saves nine.

As we can see, there is no limit to tracking how conflicts may emerge. Going by the above proverb, the key lies in possibly dissolving conflicts even before they find expression, or while they are still in their initial stages. This can save a lot of time, energy, and money.

Sensing conflicts before they break-out full strength is a skill in itself. Paying attention to early warnings helps detect possible conflicts, even before they actually take place.

Read Body Language

Body language is a type of unspoken communication that includes facial expressions, body postures, eye movements etc. Observing people’s gestures often reveals their state of mind or feelings and gives an early indication regarding any disapproval. If this is sensed, a discussion may be arranged for, in order to clear any inhibitions or doubts before they can lead to clashes.

Observe Changes in Behaviour

Be vigilant of any slight change in routine behaviour of people both in personal and professional relationships. These changes may be a way of depicting their dissatisfaction towards something. The changes could be in the form of more silent interactions, forming groups of like-minded people, or expressing lack of enthusiasm.

Make Note of Complaints or Feedbacks

Following up on complaint registers or feedback forms can go a long way in hinting any displeasure that prevails among employees, customers, or colleagues. Likewise, it is equally important that employees keep track of and note all email contents from bosses/employers. This practice helps in being alert with the slightest of warnings right from the start and in making the required changes early on. This habit can detect prospective disputes before they magnify into actual ones.

Discussions

Regular and thorough discussions will help to make all opinions heard. Listening to all viewpoints will give an understanding about dissimilarities in interests. This will help curb backbiting and instead help everyone face the situation to arrive at feasible negotiations and compromises.

Focus on Transparency

Maintaining transparency especially in financial activities will give clarity and openness about all transactions. This will help avoid assumptions and misconceptions that could possibly lead to conflicts.

Appoint Good Leaders

Skilled leaders are like mediators in a team. They know exactly who is good at what and how much and when to delegate jobs to team members. They keep track of timelines of various projects so that the members can concentrate on their area of expertise. Their role thus gives little opportunity for conflicts to creep in.

Part II: Conflict Resolution Skills

The quality of our lives depends not on whether we have conflicts or not, but on how we respond to them – Thomas Crum

It is not always possible to avoid conflicts. So, once they arise, they need to be carefully extinguished and resolved in a way, that they do not re-emerge. In fact, many conflicts are viewed positively as incidents that open up new opportunities and upgrade existing standards. Here’s how we face them and skilfully resolve them:

Clarity in Communication

Like a parachute that helps with smooth landing, strong communication skills also help you smoothly overcome conflicts. The simple rule is to talk to others the way you would want others to talk to you. Precise communication never gives room for misunderstandings. Being polite, firm, and convincing is the key. Communication is not always about grammar. The thoughts behind the speech are important. The idea is to not hurt anybody’s sentiments but at the same time be open about your needs.

Restore Trust

Trust is a base on which foundations to relationships rest; be it formal or informal. Re-establishing trust helps not only in restoring relationships; but also ensures these relationships emerge stronger than before! Trust is a silent weapon that can dissolve strong conflicts. To gain trust from your opponent, it is important to establish trust also from your end. Having trust in employees and colleagues help implement new ideas for a company.

Learn to Apologize

‘Sorry’ is one miraculous word that can almost immediately put an end to many seemingly bitter conflicts. When we discover possible faults at our end, we must resort to apologizing without delay. Though not so easy to adopt, the practice of apologizing is a definite short-cut in putting an end to most conflicts.

Learn to Forgive

The thought of revenge against someone is a pessimistic approach while dealing with quarrels. It is like taking a step backwards in conflict resolution. It harms both parties and most importantly is far from providing any solution. Forgiveness does not mean you pardon someone of his/her wrongdoings. It is a peaceful way of giving each other another chance to make a fresh start.

Maintain a Positive Attitude

Self belief and positive mind frame are the essence of conflict resolution. Never crib with the common question “Why always me?” Remember everybody at some point of time, face difficult situations. Learn to look at conflicts as waves, which when you tide over, lead you to bright new possibilities. Take up the initiative and go ahead solving them.

Control Your Emotions

To maintain a neutral approach while handling disputes, is a principal skill. Getting emotional only blocks logical thinking and leads to more heated arguments and emotional breakdown. On the other hand, staying calm and composed will help arrive at proposals that open doors for a win-win strategy for both parties involved!

Avoid Playing the Blame Game

Pointing fingers at each other while resolving conflicts is a futile and wasteful approach. Resolving conflicts is about finding solutions from the current situation rather than trying to research on what led us to the situation. The idea is to think rational about possibilities to sail through and make it to the shore.

Mediate if Required

There may arise situations when you are not part of conflicts but think you can mediate and try to end the disagreement between those involved. In that case do not hesitate. Go ahead and mediate to resolve the conflict. However, it is necessary that a mediator be impartial and neutral in suggestions and to arrive at options that are just.

Conflict Resolution Skills at Work

Apart from the pointers mentioned till now, some ‘Don’ts’ to bear in mind while handling work-related conflicts are:

Never carry personal problems to work-place as the stress hidden in them are bound to trigger off conflicts or worsen ongoing disputes. Maintaining a good routine at home that includes exercises, yoga/meditation, good diet, hobbies, and sufficient sleep help to maintain mental calm and lets you walk in your office with a fresh and positive mind frame.

Do not take all work-related issues personally. Remember that you are only a part of the company that you work for and you are not wholly responsible for all the hardships. This thought will relieve you of unnecessary tension that builds up within you.

Do not make any statements that have simply been heard from somewhere and carry no basis to them. Passing comments to someone without proof can be damaging to their reputation and can worsen disputes.

Never give away private and confidential information of colleagues or employees without their consent for any purpose whatsoever.

Conflict resolution is about everything stated till now and also about developing a good self-esteem and respect for differences in thought or culture. But, if one has to quickly state all that is required in mastering the skill of conflict resolution, even when it comes to cross-country conflict resolving, all we need to memorize are achieving expertise as stated in these five pointers:

Conclusion

Conflicts are commonplace. If gossips and backbiting can mess-up personal relationships, a lack of professionalism is revealed by letting emotions speak for oneself. When there is trust lacking, no possible law can suffice in making any transaction happen. Rules and regulations only provide a rough framework for deals to take place, while the ‘actual dealings’ rest on the trust factor.

Disputes between nations, states, or regions are more challenging more-so if they involve distribution of natural resources such as ‘rivers’ as a source of water, or tackling serious issues such as terrorism. The issues are sensitive and diplomacy is just one of the many elements of skills required in their resolution.

Conflict resolution skills are therefore pivotal in maintaining harmony among family/friends, colleagues on the work front, and even between nations. Differences in thoughts and ideas between individuals is a norm. Whether you let the differences ignite conflicts or whether you skilfully restructure these ideas and combine them to create innovation and collaboration, depends entirely on your knack of handling situations. The bottom-line remains as aptly quoted by Thomas Crum :

“The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them.”

Recommended books for Conflict resolution skills

Article Credit: Conflict Resolution Skills

This article is contributed by Ms Preeti Tambraparni, post graduate in microbiology with a certification in clinical research. Her expertise are writing personal blog in life science related topics and health blog.

More articles from Ms. Preeti Tambraparni:

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One thought on “Conflict Resolution Skills

  1. Liked. A balanced mind is what it needs in amicably resolving conflicts. Sthitaprajna is the Sanskrit word for it.
    Good understanding of the problem and succinct narration of it. Loved it.

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