Author Baden Eunson in this book defines the topic of Conflict Management and breaks it down into easily digestible components. He analyses conflicts from various perspectives to show how they can evolve and build up strength and also explains how the involved parties can either gain from or succumb to the powers unleashed by conflict.
Take-Aways from the book
Conflict is an inherent part of personal relations, and even though it is stressful, it can serve a positive purpose. Since conflict can produce positive results, some negotiators actually create conflict. In fact, some people advocate managing conflict instead of resolving it.
People respond to conflict several ways:
Pic from theconversation.com
People cope with disagreement five distinct ways:
Your ability to balance the other party’s concerns with your concerns shapes your conflict style.
Conflicts usually develop slowly, often as a result of small disagreements, gossip, sabotage, whining or a physical altercation.
These events escalate in a spiral, evolving from circumstances that often go unnoticed until they appear as full-blown public disagreements. As the conflict matures, it goes through certain stages. First, people tolerate the irritants that eventually lead to conflict. Over time, tolerance fades and resistance to the aggravating situation replaces it. In a business, this spiral might begin with gossip, and escalate into actual arguing and public expressions of anger. This sets the stage for a critical incident to develop, such as a physical confrontation or an accident that sparks a public reaction.
Along the way, the parties in the conflict engage in “selective perception,” focusing primarily on another person’s shortcomings. As the conflict spiral grows, the parties may begin to link related issues or former concerns to the current situation. Such linkages can accelerate the conflict.
The end stages of the spiral involve pushing the other party to respond. Retaliation, which is usually intended to extract revenge, can spark another confrontation, particularly if it is disproportionate. The highest spot on the spiral is overt violence, commonly directed at an opponent, but occasionally self-damaging.
You can resolve conflicts with several established methods. The method you choose depends on the power balance between the parties, the intensity of the conflict, the goals involved and each party’s willingness to negotiate.
Just as some events can escalate the conflict spiral, you can defuse conflicts by working down the spiral with a variety of techniques, from offering simple apologies, to asking forgiveness or praising the other party. Conflicts end when one party defeats the other, surrenders to the other, or when the parties reach a stalemate.
Sometimes encouraging conflict is healthy. Prompting a showdown between parties can produce positive or “functional conflict.” This kind of conflict can encourage better communication and creativity. Organisations may benefit from this approach if they suffer from too many “yes” people, focus on consensus, lack ideas, or have managers who believe in simply perpetuating the illusion of functionality and peace inside the unit.
Conflict is part of modern game theory, complete with winners and losers. A zero-sum game has a winner and a loser. In a positive-sum game, both parties win, and in a negative-sum game, they both lose.
This book is an highly understandable, practical guide to those who need help navigating through the minefield of conflict. And if you'd rather avoid a fight and work out your differences in a more controlled atmosphere, Eunson dedicates a good portion of the book to the negotiating process, so you can decide whether you prefer bare-knuckles warfare or a more civilised alternative.