Managing conflict is something we have to do, sometimes on a daily basis. There is conflict at home, at the office, in social settings, in volunteer situations, in sports events – you name it. Everywhere we go there is a chance for conflict. It use to be that we were taught to resolve conflict. That lasted until people finally realized that some conflict is good. It allows for different ways of seeing things, it causes us to grow and to expand our thinking and it can teach us that we are wrong sometimes. Even so, many people dislike conflict and will go to great lengths to avoid it. Here are some ways to look at and to deal with conflict that might be helpful to you.
Think of conflict as energy. The energy is being focused in a manner that results in conflict. That energy could be directed elsewhere. When you are working in a conflictual situation ask yourself what you can do to redirect that energy into a useful path. How can you manage that energy? What would be a better use for that energy? How can you approach the other person(s) in a way that would dissipate or refocus that energy? Where can you redirect your own energy? Remember, the energy is going somewhere so you might as well get in control of it as much as you can.
Look at conflict as tension. There is tension between the opposing factions, each pulling in a different direction. Ask yourself this questions, “Is this a tension I want to manage or is it a problem I need to solve?” Get very clear on what is going on – do not make assumptions. Check things out before you make your final decision so that you can figure out what the best path is.
Break things down into their parts. Figure out what the issues are before trying to deal with the conflict. Let’s say you go to a teach conference and are told that children are making fun of your child because she talks in class and she doesn’t get her work done on time. There are three issues here. One is that she talks to other kids during class, the second is that she does not get her work done on time and the third is that kids are making fun of her. You can deal fairly easily with the work issue by monitoring her homework. The second is more difficult but it can be managed between you and the teacher. The third issue is more difficult and is probably worthy of more thought.
So, it is a matter of how you look at it. Conflict can be a burden if you are afraid of it and see it that way. It can be a gift when you see it as an opportunity to hone your skills and learn to see things in a different way. You decide.
By Aaron Cook