The vast majority of words that we think about conflict are negative ones. Perhaps it should not always be viewed as being negative. Let us define conflict as “a difference in opinion or purposes that frustrates someone’s hopes or desires”.
I may look at my partner with a twinkle in my eyes as she is getting dressed to go to work. Her thoughts may well be “no way, I will be late for work”. At that moment in time there is a “difference in opinion” – the potential for a minor conflict! Do I need help to resolve that conflict, if it develops? Probably not. Why? As long as one of us changes our mind, I guess the issue will dissipate. I can change what I can affect – me and my mind. That should be my focus. I could also try to change that which I do not have the ability to control – the other person; and have a much lesser chance of doing so.
There are four primary causes of Conflict:
- Misunderstandings – resulting from poor communication
- Differences – in values, goals, priorities, expectations, interests or opinions
- Competition – over limited resources such as time or money
- Wrong doing – Many conflicts are caused or aggravated by wrong attitudes or actions
Conflict is not necessarily bad. Some differences are natural and beneficial. We are unique individuals and therefore we will have different opinions, convictions, desires, perspectives and priorities. That is a part of our diversity and personal preferences. Disagreements can stimulate productive dialogue, encourage creativity, promote helpful exchange and generally make life more interesting. Unity does not demand uniformity. We should not be seeking to avoid conflict, but rejoice in diversity.
Three basic ways that we respond to conflict:
1. Escape responses – are used when we are more interested in avoiding a conflict than resolving it. Therefore one way of escape is to deny the conflict. Another way is to flight. An extreme may even include suicide.
2. Attack responses –are used by those more interested in winning than in preserving relationships. Such responses are aimed at bringing as much pressure to bear on the opponent, to eliminate their opposition. Therefore, it may involve an assault, litigation and even murder, in extreme cases.
3. Peacemaking responses can be broken down into 6 responses
Conflict presents unique opportunities. Conflict = Opportunity.
Conflicts are difficult to solve until parties face up to the realities of the situation. Although essential, that may be a painful process and can only come about when the individual is behaving in their Adult ego state and recognise all the facts and implications surrounding their course of action.
Some say there are no difficult people, only limitations on our ability to deal with certain individuals! They will also say there are no irritable people, only limitations on our ability to understand why certain people behave the way they do! To change the way others behave, the most effective tool we have is our own behaviour; the more flexible we are, the more able we are to influence others. In order to change their behaviour, people need to feel safe, appreciated and understood. That provides an impetus for change.
Understanding Issues, Position and Interest
It is important to know the difference between an issue, position and an interest and these are key credentials for the effective mediator.
a) An Issue – is an identifiable and concrete question that must be addressed in order to reach an agreement (i.e. the issue is what the conflict is about).
b) A Position – is where a party stands on an issue. What is their stance and perspective.
c) An Interest – is what motivates people. It is a concern, desire, need or something a person values. (i.e. what is their true motive for
Wanting a particular outcome). A person will fight hard indeed if there is encroachment on their values!
Interest provide the basis for our positions and when we know the interest, we are better able to find a solution.