We all enter conflict with different assumptions about it. Is it a misunderstanding of facts? Different behaviors or feelings? A disagreement? Divergent viewpoints? Personality differences? Or a values difference?
Several years ago I was a motivational speaker for a transportation conference where a woman took offence to my motivational speech about lightening up (hmmmm). She started talking to her nearby colleagues about the ridiculousness of the idea when one of them called me to let me know.
What I found interesting is that we had conflict . . . and I didn't even know she existed! Can she be in conflict with me if I'm not in conflict with her? Apparently, the answer is yes.
The more I contemplate this idea, the more I believe that most of the time we are in conflict with others - and we aren't even aware of it. The whole nature of conflict is miscommunication or lack of awareness or absence of understanding by one or both parties. Add to this interesting conundrum that most people deal with conflict by avoiding it and/or pretending it doesn't exist.
If this is true, than we all have potential conflict surrounding us that we are unaware of or unwilling to engage in. Often that conflict surfaces only when one party decides or is forced to engage in conflict - ie a new policy that requires action or the woman at the seminar who refused to lighten up.
When we try to understand conflict we usually focus on behavior (she did/said this), the immediate trigger for the unsettled feelings we have, when in reality the root of the conflict is much bigger. It usually involves a much larger picture combining behaviors, attitudes, feelings, values and more.
Conflict often escalates because we act on the assumption that we have communicated. We try to solve problems before we really understand them. Unwinding conflict in order to understand it is important....
Keys to consider....
4 basic types of conflict covered in the motivational speech:
Facts. This is the easiest type of conflict to resolve, as it is simply a misunderstanding over details. Laying out the facts (and possibly backing them up) so that everyone is operating with the same data can resolve the issue.
Approach. This conflict gets a little bit more complicated. If you already agree on what needs to be done, the conflict is the need to come to terms on how to do it. To unravel the conflict, lay out all the potential procedures to do what needs to be done to achieve the goal along with the pros and cons of each, then objectively identify the best approach.
Goals. If you are unclear on your objectives, conflict intensifies. If your goal is not clear, you are dancing around undefined criteria and the conflict may never be resolved. Be sure that everyone has the same goal; agree on what you want to accomplish. Get really clear on your goals and rally others for their input and support.
Values. This can make for the most volatile conflict. Disagreement evolves around very subjective, often deeply felt personal ideals. Some values may never align and int hose cases, you have to agree to disagree and decide if it's worth fighting over. Do you really need to sway someone to your side? If not, leave values alone and deal with facts and approach.
I enjoyed being a motivational speaker for the transportation conference the crowd really warmed up to the idea of levity to transform you work... except for one person. She kept busy with her own internal conflict.