... manage conflicts
Irritation at the behaviour of a colleague, completely different visions of a concept, a head of project who insists on getting his way, a mail that is misunderstood with serious consequences, a member of staff who refuses to work any longer until the catering is properly organised, they all happen. How do you deal with different kinds of conflicts?
What is a conflict?
A conflict is a situation in which two or more parties have different opinions, feelings, aims and/or needs, and none of them is prepared to reach a compromise with the other(s). The core of a conflict is failure to understand the other. While during negotiations you may still be prepared to lay your views aside for the good cause, in a conflict the different convictions are an important factor. A disturbed relation results, and as a conflict worsens the positions harden.
In conflict management you recognise the conflict, accept it, investigate the cause, and determine which stage the conflict has reached. The aim is to bring the conflicting parties back into contact with one another in order to create a workable relation.
You do this by investigating at which level the conflict is actually situated. In communication, every discussion takes place at four levels:
- Content – the rational and factual aspects
- Procedure – the sequence in which the things are done
- Process – the relation between the discussion partners feelings and emotions.
If you can indicate what the conflict is centred on, you already have a key to its solution. In most conflicts there are problems on all four levels, so you will have to operate on all four levels in trying to resolve it.
Basic skills; essential keys
In conflict management you look at what a person needs. That does not mean that you should immediately come up with a solution. Start by reflecting, observing, listening and experiencing. This creates room to think about whose problem it is: your problem, our problem, his problem. In that way you will see what is needed, who needs it, and whether you are the person who should offer the solution. Assist your discussion partner in formulating his problem. Create an atmosphere of security and trust and use your communicational skills: listen, summarise and ask further questions.
Remember: you can only tell your story once you have contact with your discussion partner. Time it properly and switch between the four levels of communication. Only then can solutions arise.