Conflict Management: Turning Dissonance Into Harmony, Productivity and Success

Because of the uniqueness of each man, conflict is not a stranger to everyday life. We perceive things differently and as such conflict among our families, friends and especially in our workplaces inevitably occurs and sometimes thrives.

It can be simply defined as a dissonance or disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns. But behind this simple definition are complex issues that need to be addressed. Although conflict is neither good or bad and it simply means a difference of opinion or interests, we have to underscore the fact that conflict is more than just a disagreement. It also involves a perception of threat to one’s well-being. Perceptions are subjective and they are filtered by variables such as our culture, upbringing, experiences, beliefs values, and gender. Therefore, handling conflicts and finding a solution acceptable to the parties involved can be challenging and can even eat up our time.

According to Phil Knight, an American business magnate and philanthropist, “There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about that is the key to success.”

Studies have defined conflict as an emotionally-driven process. As such, employing the capacities of our emotional intelligence is the best approach to handle and to manage conflicts in our personal relationships and in our workplaces.

Social and emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own emotions and those of others, in the moment, and to use that information to manage ourselves and manage our relationships. Managing conflicts falls under the capacity of our emotional intelligence to manage relationships.

Here are signs that we are lacking in this competence:

> We are uncomfortable with conflict and as such we tend to avoid it.

We lack consideration and tact when voicing our disagreement; in fact, we often present our arguments in a way that creates hostility.

We fail to listen to others’ points of view when disagreement arises.

We tend to focus solely and robustly on our own point of view; it is difficult for us to find, see, or propose areas of common ground.

We tend to see others as “opponents” and try to find solutions that serve only ourselves.

We are usually blind to the part we play in creating a problem — that is, we tend to blame the problem and the conflict on others.

Clearly, a high EQ underpins an effective negotiation and satisfactory conflict resolution. If you we are competent in this area we:

are able to handle difficult individuals and groups of people and tense situations with diplomacy and tact.

can spot potential conflict, bring disagreements into the open, and help de-escalate.

are good at encouraging debates and open discussions.

have the ability to draw out all parties, to understand the differing perspectives, and to find a common ideal that everyone can endorse.

> have the capacity to orchestrate win-win solutions.

Conflict is a result of our human way of expressing ourselves when we are in disagreement with others. The way we are wired and our experiences influence our responses to situations. Since each of us is uniquely created, the inevitability of conflict in our everyday lives is ever present.

As a negative experience, conflict can result in animosity but a well-managed conflict can serve as an avenue for personal development and growth opportunities. As former American president Ronald Reagan would say it, “Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”

A large volume of researches on EI has established the direct correlation of conflict management to effective leadership and success in life. It is therefore worth our time and effort to hone this ability in us. We can start with the following tips:

When in conflict or heated discussion, become self-aware, in the moment, and focus on the issues rather than on the personal matters.“Separate the people from the problem.”

Ask: what is the best thing to say or do that will make this a more productive conversation?

Don’t avoid conflict – it lingers (even festers) and will need to be dealt with sooner or later, and sooner is better and creates fewer hard feelings.

Be willing to change perspectives and consider a wider range of alternatives and options; resist digging in heels or putting up walls.

Examine intent when negotiating; deliver the message in a way that doesn’t create hostility and preserves the other person’s dignity (no put-downs, no make-wrongs).

Be creative, brainstorm, invent options for mutual gain (“expand the pie”).

Insist on using data or some objective criteria to reach resolution, not emotion.

Be aware of other persons’ emotions in the conflict – they may be feeling angry or fearful. We will get our point across better and be more responsive to their needs if we understand their emotional state.

Bring in a neutral third party if the conflict cannot be resolved.

Margaret Heffernan has this to say about conflict: “For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.” Conflict cannot be avoided but we can harness it to enrich our relationships, to enhance our ability to cope with the complexity of life, and to usher in success.

We can help you out if you’re struggling in this area. Contact us today.