How To Resolve Conflicts -- Without Offending Anyone


If you are having to deal with other people, you will, sooner or later, have to deal with conflict. Conflict is not inherently bad. In fact, conflict simply stems from differing viewpoints. Since no two people view the world exactly the same way, disagreement is quite normal. In fact, anyone who agrees with you all of the time is probably telling you what you want to hear, not what he or she actually believes.

The reason conflict has received such bad press is because of the emotional aspects that come along with it. When there is conflict, it means that there is strong disagreement between two or more individuals. The conflict is usually in relation to interests or ideas that are personally meaningful to either one or both of the parties involved.

Unmanaged conflict can lead to violence and insubordination. Notice I said "unmanaged". The key to managing conflict effectively is to learn the skills necessary to become a good conflict manager.

We are going to examine three main areas where conflicts occur: in interpersonal one-on-one relationships; in meetings; and in negotiations. Although there are similarities between all of these areas, each one takes a slightly different slant depending on the setting the conflict occurs in. Let's take a look at each one in a little more detail and I will show you what I mean.

Conflicts in interpersonal relationships.

Sometimes in interpersonal relationships, such as those between you and one of your employees, there may be a conflict that you are not aware of. If someone who is normally upbeat and friendly toward you suddenly begins avoiding you or being rude, there is usually a reason. If the person has remained cheerful with everyone else except you, chances are you are dealing with a conflict situation. In these instances, you will want to address the problem by proceeding through the following steps.

Conflicts in meetings.

Conflicts in meetings can be very disruptive. But they can also be very helpful. Remember, conflicts are disagreements. If the person who is disagreeing with you is raising valid questions, it may benefit the group to address the issues they are presenting. In fact, by listening to them, you may gain valuable insight into what is and what is not working within your organization. However, if the person continues past the point of disagreement to the point of disruptiveness, specific steps should be taken. Below is a list of conflict resolution tactics that you can use for meetings that get "out of control."

Conflicts in negotiations.

When you are negotiating with your clients, vendors, or even your employees, it is important to always keep in mind the idea that both parties are seeking a Win/Win situation. No one wants to feel like they are giving away something for nothing. In fact, most conflicts arise because one party feels like the other party is taking advantage of them. In order to avoid these types of situations, there are certain principles you can apply to increase your chances of a successful negotiation.

Rules for disagreeing diplomatically.

Regardless of the type of conflict you are dealing with, there are several general rules of thumb you should follow whenever you are trying to bring harmony to a volatile situation. Here they are.

To become a good conflict manager requires a lot of practice. Just remember that the goal is to reach a compromise that both of you can live with as well as be happy with. In other words, find a way that both of you can walk away feeling like a winner!

(Texas Center for Women's Business Enterprise, Austin, TX, 8/97)


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