Conflict Resolution Strategies

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Conflict resolution is second only to conflict prevention as a personal and personnel conflict-management tool. Once a conflict exists, timely intervention can be crucial to preventing destructive escalation. Even though any given conflict may have unique features, there are proven conflict resolution strategies for containing, easing and resolving collisions of outlook, interests and goals.

Although the techniques and strategies of conflict resolution have established applications in the domains of organizations and employment, they can be applied and adapted to virtually any conflict, whether at work, school, home or in relationships.

When conflicts cannot be eliminated, an effort can be made to minimize them while maximizing collaborative understanding of them in an atmosphere of trust and good will. For example, Manager A and Manager B constantly quarrel over "turf" and because of a personality clash; so, by redefining their respective territories and by reassigning at least one to another branch of the company, the conflict can be managed, even if the underlying personality conflicts are never addressed, although understood and accepted.

Conflict in the workplace, just as in other areas, is a fact of life. Existence of conflict is not necessarily destructive, as long as it is resolved effectively. In fact, it can lead to professional as well as personal growth through "creative conflict", such as the testing of competing ideas, proposals, products, services or companies through free, fair and open competition (in science, business or even at the dinner table).

Conflict is not synonymous with hostility or antagonism. Sometimes conflicts merely reflect the need to make tough decisions about how to allocate scarce resources to competing interests. Other times, conflicts arise because of legitimate opposing needs that cannot easily all be satisfied. Conflicts of desires are normally more easily resolved than conflicts of needs, since desires are far more negotiable than needs are.

As a first tactical step in implementing a conflict resolution strategy, it would be wise to determine whether the conflict is between needs, between desires, or between a mix of these.

A conflict can arise in situations where different people with diverging goals and requirements, including resource requirements, have to cooperate. This may lead to intense personal animosity as well. However, in most cases, proven conflict resolution strategies can lead to a positive outcome. A conflict can arise suddenly or can take the form of a long-standing or festering disagreement. If the conflict has deep roots, identifying, disentangling and addressing them are important aspects of the resolution process.

Another key strategic requirement is to prevent a vicious downward spiral of recrimination and negativity. For once that is triggered, the attendant loss of good will can increasingly contaminate perceptions of even the best proposals and counter-proposals.

One such preventive measure is to keep the discussions courteous and non-confrontational and to keep the focus on issues rather than on individuals.
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