Let’s be honest, most people are afraid of conflict. The do not like the uneasy feeling that comes over them. They do not want to ruffle feathers or cause the other person to explode. Some people actually have to walk a very fine line to make sure their spouse does not flip out. People do just enough to move on to another day, and they never address the root of the issue. This is true in relationships, work environments, or war. Instead of resolving conflict, they chose to manage it by balancing beliefs, sanity, and self-control. It is not an easy thing to do, and it can take a toll on you.
What is conflict? The Coalition Foundation (2015) defines conflict as a “struggle or contest between people with opposing need, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals.” Conflict results because there is some form of miscommunication between people with regards to opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals. I think we all would agree, the biggest and most frustrating problem with conflict is miscommunication. We are stuck to our cell phones and emails more than ever, and it is extremely easy to be a “telephone tough guy” and say things that are condescending and degrading. In reality, text and emails have no voice. It is left to the reader to predict how the other person said what they sent. In their head, they think they know the tone of the writer, which couldn’t be further than the truth. I know I am guilty of this myself. However, when we talk face to face, the confrontation is greatly decreased because the tone is nothing like we thought.
The University of Peace (2005) defines conflict management as the effort to prevent the escalation of violence and its negative effects on conflict. USAID, “Training of Trainers Manual,” outlines several issues managers of conflict need to understand in order to properly implement conflict management principals. First, it is important to understand the underlying issues of the conflict. This provides direction and understanding for the stakeholders involved. In this context, it is necessary to examine the cultural background and experiences of the stakeholders to ensure neutrality. Second, there are different types of relationships which could occur during the process. Questions such as: Is there a connection? What type of alliance is there? What is the direction of power or influence? Are there broken relationships? Is there discord and why? In most conflicts power is the single most important element because it affects the dynamics of the relationships or conflict the most, and to successfully analyze and provide solutions, practitioners need to understand uses of power because it can be confusing.
In contrast, Miller and King (2005) define conflict management as an “interventionist effort to prevent conflict and violence,” while providing no structured method to resolve conflict. Instead, resolving conflict requires a flexible approach to finding a resolution to problems. Conflict management does not hold that all conflicts can be resolved. Instead, conflict management focuses on decreasing the level of non-productivity. This can be accomplished by having the skills needed to navigate into conflict resolution, including self-awareness about the conflict modes, understanding a variety of communications skills, and by establishing some form of structure to manage the conflict. Spangler (2003) believes conflict management is the control of deep-rooted conflict and resolution is possible if the right tools are applied. However, conflict management requires engaging in a manner that is “more constructive and less destructive.” The ultimate goal for any conflict is to intervene in such a way that makes the ongoing conflict “more beneficial and less damaging.” Best (2005) further believes conflict management is the process of reducing negativity through a variety of measures.
What does this mean? Is managing conflict or resolving the conflict the right process for you and your circumstance. If you are in a relationship /marriage, I would highly suggest to pick and choose your battles. In my professional opinion, you must always be completely honest, and never speak out of emotion. Conflict resolution is a must for major issues affecting the dynamics of the relationship and both parties’ feelings. Leave managing conflict for smaller items. While the ultimate goal is a win-win solution, the reality is it will not always occur.
In the end, there is no easy way to handle conflicts. Both parties’ must be willing to engage constructively. In relationships, both persons need to engage without emotion by setting boundaries. Some items may need to be tabled, so each person has time to think about things, then reengage at a later time. Ultimately, everyone wants to come away feeling like they had a hand in the decision making process.