May 28, 2012

Conflict in our homes and the workplace is a fact of life. It doesn’t matter where you try to run and hide from it, conflict will always find you. We have seen all perspectives of conflict in one situation or another, whether it resulted from individuals with different interests or goals or differing personalities. All situations resulting in conflict may portray a negative outlook on this topic but it is important to realize conflict can come in many forms, both good and bad. It is crucial to one’s personal and professional growth to resolve conflict in an effective manner and coming from a business perspective, the difference between fighting and resolving can mean a long time client or lost client along with a bad reputation. And we all know that it only takes one bad statement and your personal and professional lives are put at risk.

It’s important to focus on the constructive aspect of conflict, although it can be hard when the destructive side is sitting right in front of us. The destructive outcome can ruin your potential for growth and here’s how.

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Look at this model for The Seven Phases of Conflict. You can see just by this model that conflict is demonstrated as a continuous cycle, for we already have the understanding that conflict is inevitable, natural and if managed properly, desirable to us all. Here is the breakdown of the model to use next time you must approach any situation.

1. Outlook – This is the beginning stage of any situation. Here you must become aware that there is conflict and accept it. Is the conflict due to a positive or negative disagreement? How do you perceive conflict? Is your outlook positive or negative? This will impact your approach and results dramatically.

2. Assessment – Here you are assessing the severity of the conflict. Is it over a minor issue with a co worker or a major issue with your manager? What is the gravity of the situation?

3. Stewing and Brewing – This is the build up of the conflict in your stomach. It is unhealthy if the conflict is impeding upon your everyday life. If it steers your focus away from important events or tasks then it is time to either reach out for help or move on to the Reaction stage. In this stage, stress goes up and patience goes down. The conflict doesn’t go away just because you are not dealing with it.

4. Reaction – This is the decision making stage. There are three options to choose from; fight, flight or deal with it. Don’t make quick rash decisions; take the time to way out pros and cons to each situation. We believe it is important to experience all three reactions as it will help you grow and understand which path becomes more beneficial to you and the other individual(s) involved.

4.a. Fight – That awful moment when your emotions get the best of you and comes out in actions. Whether it turns to physical or emotional outbursts towards the other individual. Taking the fight method out can lead to destruction, it is the unknown outcome we all fear. When we react by fighting, this succumbs to a lack of control. The outcome is must less predictable.

4.b. Flight – This is the ever so common path we usually fall back on. You assess the situation and would rather not confront it. Whether it is a small or large conflict you are running from it will come back to haunt you. By taking the flight path you resort back to the beginning until all your emotions build up and force you to fight or deal with it. When we don’t deal with the little situations they quickly intensify until one day we explode over sometimes a relatively minor issue. This leaves anyone in our path confused about our reaction. What they don’t see is the volcanic activity of frustration that has been building over the weeks, they only see the mass eruption in the final stage!

5. Deal with it – This is the proactive way of approaching a conflict. You make the decision to deal with whatever the conflict may be in a collaborative effort with the individual(s).

6. Resolve it – Working towards a win-win situation you are keeping your own interests afloat as well as others. It is about working together towards a common solution.

7. Learn from it – The most important reason why you should control your response to conflict. Whether you fight, flight or deal with it you should look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow. I can guarantee you that if you decide to fight one battle and it back fires (whether from embarrassment in front of employees or feeling of guilt towards the other party) you will try to deal with it next time around. By learning how to succeed in dealing with conflict situations, we can influence our outlook in dealing with conflict.

    It is now obvious how destructive conflict can be to an environment if managed the wrong way. Stick to the positive attitude and approach to effectively manage the conflict that proceeds to show up on a regular basis. And if you still find yourself struggling stay tuned for our upcoming course on Dealing with Conflict and Differing Personalities where we will explore in depth into dealing with conflict, dealing with differing personalities how to assume your own attitude and responsibility to influence positive outcomes.