Thursday, December 22, 2016

Itching for a conflict?

Employees in Conflict

On the surface, a conflict-free life may seem ideal. Many individuals seem to be on the lookout for a stress-free life — things are simple, challenges are few and interpersonal conflicts are non-existent.

Most experts agree, however, that conflict can not always be avoided — it is a part of life. But it can also be a positive experience since it often presents an opportunity to better understand those around us and improve our interactions with them.

In a conflict, the positions and concerns of two individuals may first appear to be miles apart. During a conflict, individuals can be assertive (even aggressive) in trying to satisfy their wants and needs. Alternatively, they can cooperate and try to placate the other person, or attempt to reach a compromise — or respond to the needs and wants of both parties.

Conventional wisdom recognizes, for example, that often "Two heads are better than one" and as such we should collaborate in a conflict situation. On the other hand, some would argue that "Might makes right" and we should try to win at any cost.

As psychologists, we have seen that individual manage conflict in a variety of ways. Conflict management strategies suggest using a set of social skills (e.g. listening, assertiveness, cooperation, problem-solving, persuasion, negotiation). While each conflict situation will often determine the best conflict-handling strategy to be used, we all have our preferred ways of managing interpersonal conflicts and often resort to one strategy type over others.

To better manage conflict, we first need to listen — actively — and try to understand the other individual's points of view, concerns and motives. Only once this is done thoroughly can we, more appropriate and more equitably, find the solution to the conflict. In difficult or litigious conflicts, involving third-party experts (e.g. psychologists, therapists, HRM consultants, lawyers) to mitigate the conflict may be required.

I believe that it is mostly during challenging or conflict situations that we are put to the test and can show how best to surpass ourselves. As such, we should see conflict as an opportunity — one that we can deal with efficiently and effectively with the right strategy — and not as a threat.

It's important to remember that conflict — more often than not — allows individuals to further explore the needs and wants of others and, most importantly, to resolve differences, find solutions to problems, and lead healthier interpersonal relationships.

With all this in mind — why not look forward to your next conflict?

Dr. Yaniv M. Benzimra, Ph.D.
Psychologist
Y2 Consulting Psychologists

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