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Conflict Resolution - Life Skill

Conflict Resolution 


Conflict is as old as time.  God created the heavens and the earth in five days; and God created both man and woman on the sixth day.  On the seventh day, God rested.  Soon after, both the man and the woman were tempted by the forbidden fruit and defied God bringing shame and condemnation upon them.   From that moment on, both the man and woman began to pray to God for deliverance from one another and to settle the conflicts between them.   Since the beginning of time, conflict has tormented the souls of all men.  “The four awful truths about conflict: 1) Conflict is inevitable, 2) conflict produces strife and costly consequences, 3) conflict can spiral out of control if not handled properly due to dysfunctional strategies, and 4) some damage due to conflict are irreversible.”1  

In conflict, avoid harm and work towards resolution.

Michael Dues, The Art of Conflict Management

Conflict arises when interdependent people discover that the satisfaction of their goals are blocked or thwarted by the action of the other parties in the interaction. To satisfy their goals, interdependent people must negotiate gain what they want by giving something in return for what they get.  The goal of conflict management is to avoid unnecessary conflict and to resolve conflict peacefully when it arises. 

The mutual satisfaction of goals is complicated by the fact that goals are multiple, complex, conflicting, and dynamic/changeable.  Goals can be categorized as 1) topical goals or concrete and tangible objects that can be acquired and possessed, 2) relational goals such as belonging and affection, identity, which included intangible status, self-esteem, and self-concept,  and 4) process goals such has how things get done.  Identifying and clarifying the goals of each interdependent party is an important step in any negotiation to resolve conflict.2  

Michael Dues summarizes ten lessons for managing conflict.3  The parties in a conflict should understand that: 1) conflict is natural and human and we can learn to manage it better, 2) win-win outcomes are possible most of the time, 3) the parties involved should report and take into account each other's perspectives in a conflict situation, 4) everyone involved in the conflict has multiple goals, 5) conflict is best resolved by granting each other an equal power sharing arrangement, 6) they must work with a broad repertoire of conflict management strategies, 7) conflicts are best mitigated by following good a process, 8) relationships have important dynamics and are valuable in their own right, 9) the aftermath of conflict must be managed as well to ensure that there is no lasting damage, and 10) when conflict is exceptionally tough, they should seek professional help when needed.  

Manage Conflict Early

Michael Dues, The Art of Conflict Management

The best argument or disagreement is the one that doesn’t happen. Or if it does happen, the parties should find ways to disagree agreeably.  The only way to get the best of a disagreement/conflict is to avoid it.  If you get into a disagreement and don’t want to resolve it, just say so.   There is no social law that says all disagreements must be settled.  However, life is better for all parties if time is spent resolving disputes rather than letting them fester and spoil one another’s ability to satisfy important needs.   Most arguments are ultimately settled by resolving the core issues of the disagreement.   

The ability to resolve conflict is a key life skill, because 1) we live in a social-economic, inter-dependent society where conflicts will arise due to mutually exclusive and competing goals, and 2) we must know how to resolve them peacefully so that both sides are satisfied and the relationship is preserved.   “Manage conflicts by managing the people involved in the conflict.” 4  Conflict management is also an art in that even following a proven process does not always guarantee a successful outcome, even with an experienced practitioner and finesse by the applicant.  Conflict management is an art and learning the art is a life-long learning process.   .   

Conflict must be managed towards a successful resolution.

C.W. Sooter

A conflict can arise between anyone: strangers, acquaintances, friends, and even family.   We can’t always sidestep and avoid conflict, and when it crops up, we need to meet it head-on. If conflict can arise even from simple transactions with close family member who love and care about each other, imagine the potential for conflict in complex transactions.  Resolving conflicts requires time and emotional investment to resolve, but it is a price that must be paid to achieve important needs and to preserve relationships.  We must learn to resolve conflicts peacefully to live in harmony with our fellow travelers.  Thus, the benefits of effective conflict management is avoiding harm and achieving goals.  

As we mature and develop our sense of responsibility for our world and ourselves, we are better able to interact with others with maturity and willingness to sacrifice selfish needs as a means of giving to others so they can gain their needs.  Service and sacrifice are a way to give of ourselves to the world and in return we gain significance in our existence.  Whenever we are able to help others gain what they want without too much sacrifice our part, we are all winners.  The less a person’s ego gets involved in a conflict, the less likely the conflict will spiral out of control.  The source of a conflict is ratchet upwards by thinking of the situation as them against me…“they shouldn’t do that to me” or “what they are doing is not right”.   Such defensive thinking gets the parties hooked into combative encounters.  

The more at peace we are with our self, the more we begin to extend a hand of friendship to others and to take on the burdens of others to help them enjoy a better life.   With maturity, we engage in fewer disputes with others.  Since it takes two people to have a dispute, incidents that might have engaged two people in a disagreement, you simply remove yourself as one of the participants.  You have the power to resolve disputes before then happen.   The key to maturity is the ability to live and let live, to assume responsibility for everything in front of you, and to assume the role of a goodwill ambassador to all you meet.   “When you assume full responsibility for whatever happens in your life, it allows you to become more effective, powerful, and creative in the face of circumstances.”5  When in doubt, assume responsibility and make things better.  People with high maturity and willing to accept responsibility have fewer conflicts or disputes with others because they have a wide band of tolerance and graciousness.   

A conflict can be handled in one of two ways: 1) out-of-control arguing and fighting or 2) staying in control and discussing and resolving the disagreement with a disciplined process.    The approach taken to resolve conflict depends on the emotional state of the two parties.  At least one party must remain in emotional control to lead the conflict through a dispute resolution process. 

Conflict is best resolved by working together, collaborative, on the same side to find a set of exchanges that each can offer the other so that the needs, issues, and disagreements behind the conflict can be resolved in a way that both sides are not worse off than before, and ideally, both are better off. Creative and innovative thinking is the key to developing options for mutual gain and satisfy each side’s needs in the disagreement.  The best solutions are those that are easy for each side to give and important when received by the other side.  

Offer what is easy for you to give and valued by others who accept it

C.W. Sooter

When a conflict is resolved, not only will each side get important needs satisfied but both sides are likely to experience significant emotional relief.  Even if they didn’t get all that they wanted, they are likely to believe that the end result was a fair and equitable. As a result of resolving conflict peacefully, all parties are able to move on with their life, feel good about their conduct in the resolution, bear no grudge against the other side, and more importantly, they have grown in maturity so that they are less susceptible to future conflict and gain some key skills in handling future conflict.  

I use the terms conflict, dispute, and disagreement almost interchangeably in this book.  Some authors define disagreement as a mild differing of opinion, dispute as a recurring condition of disagreement between people in a fixed relationships, and conflict as a severe contest of wills over some fundamental issue, incident, or situation that is not easily resolved.  Sometimes, the preservation of relationships is an important goal in a relationship and sometimes it isn’t.  I often use these words interchangeable simply because I prefer the variety of language. 

Most disputes we run into are small and we work them out quickly.  Some are bigger and require professional to work them out.  Entire professions are devoted to handling the larger issues of conflict such as law enforcement, court and legal system, mediators, arbitrators, counselors, therapists, diplomats, public relations, governments, etc.  Wherever there are people, all transactions that transpire between them have the potential for the mutual satisfaction of needs across the entire gamut of needs: physiological, safety, belong, affection, status, achievement, identity, and self realization.  Society is held together because collectively, people are better able to interact in ways that are mutually beneficial for all.  

If you consider that people engage in social and commercial interactions with each other frequently throughout each day and each one could result in a frustrating encounter, then each disappointing experience is a potential conflict.  If at least one person in an interaction is trained in conflict resolution techniques, not only is it possible to avoid conflict but to end is peacefully.   Although the number of disputes is an extremely small fraction of all interacts between people, the number of transactions the average person experiences is a single day is huge.  So, the number of disputes that have the potential to arise each day is not insignificant.   Because conflict is so prevalent, there is a high demand for people to help those who can’t resolve their disputes on their own.

Some disputes are never settled peacefully, and many people go to their graves with malice in their hearts against others.   Some feuds pass from generation to generation.  Disputes between countries often break out into all-out war, or running gunfights that seem to endure for centuries.  The ultimate victor in a dispute that turns ugly is the strongest who is best able to endure or the last survivor of the struggle.  Armed struggle is the least preferable way to manage conflict.  Sometime, it is the only way, until a solution is found that satisfies both sides.   Whether a dispute is large or small, if they are going to be settled peacefully, then they are all settled by a skilled artisan with a proven dispute resolution process. 

The better the dispute resolution process, the more skilled the people in implementing it, and the more mature the people representing each side, the greater the odds of a successful outcome.   This book will address each of the three critical success factors that are essential to resolving disputes.    Chapters are devoted each of these three critical success factors: 1) the dispute resolution process, 2) how-to skills for developing options for mutual gain, negotiating & persuading, and developing an enforceable and implementable agreement, and 3) the development of maturity so that people are less susceptible to getting into intractable disagreements in the first place. 

Conflict almost always a perceived completion between mutually exclusive, each of which is attractive and important in its own right.  If the parties can work together collaborative, the conflict between goals can be resolved using rational decision analysis.   

Everyone experiences a conflict with themselves over how to satisfy mutually exclusive goals from time to time as they strive to make important life decisions.  Not every goal can be achieved simultaneously without some compromise with other goals.  Sometimes one goal must be sacrificed to achieve another.  Thus, a typical human problem is how to deal with conflicts between important goals, such as love, work, and play.  People often experience stress and anxiety when they are overwhelmed by such conflicts, such as when career goals interfere with family goals.6   The resolution of inner conflict is no different than resolving goals between people.  By rationally searching for the best outcome to a situation, one usually finds it. 


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