Conflict and Problem Solving
paraphrased from: Chapt 10 in Building United Judgement edited by the Centre for Conflict Resolution 1981
1. Acknowledging and responding to conflict
2. Creative problem solving between participants in conflict
3. Mediation – a third person or mediator is required where hurt, anger or distrust prevent conflicting persons from resolving the conflict independently
GUIDELINES FOR ACKNOWLEDGING AND RESPONDING TO CONFLICT
1. Accept conflict as natural. Don’t be afraid of it. When conflict occurs treat it as an opportunity to examine the issues involved in depth and to learn more about the underlying values and assumptions you hold. Accept the challenge to find imaginative and creative responses to conflicting ideas.
2. Bring hidden conflicts out in the open. If you think there is a conflict hidden under the surface that is causing problems in the group, call it out at an appropriate time. If you see signs of unexpressed disssagreement, ask those invovled what they are feeling.
3. Disagree with ideas, not with people. Try to put yourself in their shoes, that are their needs, values and previous experiences? Remember that your goal is to work together to find a mutually acceptable solution.
4. When defining an issue or problem, always define it as shared. Responsibility for a conflict never lies with just one person or faction. Say “We do not agree about the distribution of office space” rather than “Jack refuses to share his desk”.
5. Identify and focus on the most important, central issues of the conflict. Insted of dwelling on what is wrong with the statement, try and find what is right. There may be some ideas which you just cannot bring yourself to accept: these are the most important issues in the conflict. Your reasons may be based in logical principles or they may have to do with feelings, both are legitimate.
6. Don’t polarize the conflicting positions.
7. Don’t compromise too quickly. This may prevent you form adequately exploring the problem and its potential solutions. The ideal solution to a conflict is a creative one which finds a way to give everyone what they most need.
8. If you aren’t centrally involved in a conflict, don’t take sides too quickly. By remaining non-partisan you can better watch the process of the meeting and help see that the guidelines are being followed.
9. Try to be aware of your own feelings and opinions during a conflict. The more clearly you express what is most important to you, what you really need and want, the better you will be bale to communicte and negotiate with others.
10. Remember that at times, the best tools for constructive conflict is a little quiet time. If the conflict is inflamed by physical factors such as lack of sleep, skipped meals, or other ailments, these should be attended to before the discussion resumes.
11. When normal meeting discussion doesn’t seem sufficient to work out a conflict, you may wish to set up a special structured process for delaing with it. Schedual a special meeting and use a neutral facilitator (either from inside or outside the group).