Conflict arises when different people want different things at the same time. In such a situation it is best to face up to the situation by getting the issue into the open and discussed in a calm dispassionate way.
So to be clear, conflict resolution is not conflict avoidance, which usually leads eventually to the very conflict we are seeking to avoid. ‘Cold war ‘ style standoffs tend to make matters worse and run the risk of resulting in a ‘lose lose’ result for all involved, not to mention the damage caused to relationships..
On the contrary creating the conditions for healthy discussion of issues, where there are different perspectives , often results in enhanced relationships, where mutual respect is deepened, in addition to the more immediate benefit of a ‘win win ‘ solution to the issue in dispute.Some points to consider in order to have a healthy discussion :
1. Choose the right time and place. The more contentious the issue the more important it is to have face to face discussions, allocate adequate time and ensure privacy. These conditions create the environment to be able to not only to hear the other’s perspective but also to listen between the lines to the undelying feelings and needs being expressed. If relationships have broken down some kind of facilitator or intermediary may also be necessary to act as honest broker and to take the ‘heat’ out of the situation if strong emotions are likely to surface.
2. Be open and honest (with the other party and with yourself), clearly expressing your point of view and any assumptions you have made. Seek out the assumptions made by the other party. Openess also means being willing to change an opinion/position based or a better understanding of the situation and the others’ perspective.
3.Respect and accept the others’ opinion and be aware of any tendency you might have to be defensive.
4. Above all make sure that you understand the ‘it’. It is surprising how often conflict situations arise from misunderstandings and misconceptions, which once clarified result in an immediate resolution. Even if this is not the case a shared understanding of the issue and all its’ dimensions is key to developing options for resolving the situation.
5. Go beyond ‘win win’ to ‘win learn’ – identify what action is needed to ensure that there is not a recurrence of the problem.
6. Checkpoint – summarise what has been agreed and get confirmation that everybody is fully committed to the shared solution. Check that there are no unmet needs or unspoken issues.