Conflict is part of everyday life, typically arising from differences in viewpoints on an issue. These differences are essential to enable us to reflect and challenge our own and others’ thinking, create and develop new ideas and to share understanding. However, commonly conflict is perceived as negative, a source of tension and disruption, leading to poor morale and low productivity. Worse still it can escalate to result in situations involving aggression, depression, absenteeism or many other undesirable outcomes. Whether your interest is in the well being of your staff and colleagues, their effect on the bottom line, or the legal implications for your organisation, managing conflict is fast becoming an essential skill at all levels.
I’ve worked with a number of different groups recently, using conflict management techniques in different ways – whether teaching the skills to deal with conflict within the workplace, or applying the techniques to groups with known difficulties to reach a positive way forward. Working with Mike Cockburn we used drama based learning with Newcastle University to allow participants to practice skills in a safe environment, one participant described this as one of the most useful workshops they have ever attended.
In another groups we used the models and strategies developed by Kenneth Cloke and Thomas-Kilmann to both explore our own individual style and approach to conflict and also other potential ways we could approach the issue. A key issue with most people is their tendency to have an emotional reaction and make it a personal issue, so the methods around focusing on the problem not the people, and appreciating alternative perspectives and interests is really powerful.
Just for fun, here’s a clip I use sometimes as a lighthearted illustration of how you can easily dig in to a position without making any effort to understand your ‘opponent’.
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net