Savvy Coping With Conflict

A first-rate communicator discerns how to deal with conflict. His goal is not to eliminate conflict but to control it in such a way that it brings about evolution and constructive outcome. We all have our personal ways of dealing with conflict, our own methods of handling trying situations. How do you control conflict to minimize risks and maximize benefits? How can you handle conflict in a way that boosts your growth potential? The following iterates different ways we cope with conflict in a small assembly:

Mr. Avoider: Several people strive for detachment because they are awkward with anger in any form. Sometimes their evasion creates conflict or makes a frenzied situation worse. Evasion can be of advantage to you if you are not part of the predicament or part of the solution. It is not always your duty to “fix” every conflict that arises in your home or workplace.

Madame Accommodator: The Accommodator tries to keep everyone happy. This person’s objective is shallow harmony, not necessarily an equitable resolution of the discord. Accommodation is favored when the concerns are minor or when the relationship would be irreparably spoiled because tempers are too hot. Here the solution is only passing.

Stealthy Compromiser: The Compromiser tenders a solution which, at first glance, appears to settle conflict. Nonetheless, both sides are left disgruntled because both yield something they wanted. Compromise works best when time is fleeting and both parties benefit. But it’s a less than ideal situation because everyone loses something.

Aggressive Competitor: For the Competitor, discord is a fun game. Power gets this person’s interest. The competitive approach is greatest when all parties distinguish the power relationship between themselves and know that action is crucial. Like the others, this is merely a provisional answer. This dispute returns, perhaps in a more powerful form.

Savvy Negotiator: This person hunts for consensus and works assiduously to get it. Negotiation works best when all parties have problem-solving skills. Negotiators work to discover methods satisfactory to both parties while keeping objectives and values intact. This is the best tonic for communication breakdown.

The first aim in resolving friction is to deal constructively with the emotions involved. Keep in mind that you should regard the other person with respect, listen until you “experience the other side,” and to convet your views, needs and emotions. Though talking may trigger conflict, it is also the only means of deciding it.

Discussion can focus on defining the crisis by saying, “I hear…” looking for agreement by saying, “I agree …”; understanding feelings “I understand …”; and stating views calmly. “I think…” Several people plunge headlong into conflict without determining if their timing is right to work out the situation. Others forget to set the stipulations for the conflict. Many jump into a conflict without knowing if the other person assents to the terms.

Deploying the method described above promotes the genuine and direct expression of feelings by one person at a time. As emotions are articulated, heard and acknowledged, they are transient. When they are not expressed, heard or acknowledged, they fester. This style can rapidly neutralize emotions so divergence can be discussed more fruitfully.

Joseph Plazo