Conflict Resolution – Turn Conflict into Opportunity

January 6, 2012

A common reality in every workplace is conflict. Divergent needs, values, perceptions and opinions all contribute to differing views on any topic. So, how do you turn conflict into an opportunity? By accepting and understanding that one person’s concerns appear to be incompatible with another person’s point of view and seeking a win-win solution to the disagreement. By following the below steps, you’ll be able to turn a discrepancy into an opportunity for your organization.

1. Educate yourself.

Take the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. It will tell you that you handle interpersonal conflict either by competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding or accommodating. Explore the Interest-Based Relational Approach to conflict resolution. It focuses on keeping personalities and problems separate, making relationships a priority, and exploring solutions together. Understanding yourself and a resolution process will help give you the emotional intelligence required to find resolution filled with opportunity.

2. Set expectations.

Hold a team meeting where you lay out a specific process for dealing with all future conflict. Rewards and consequences for specific behaviors should be developed and openly accepted by all members of the team. Allow all members of the team to provide input.

3. Communicate effectively.

Learn to listen actively, but also to use “I” statements. “You” statements accuse others and only help to build hostility. An example of an “I” statement is “I felt my idea was a good solution to our situation. It bothered me that it wasn’t even considered.” Instead of saying “You wouldn’t even consider my option”, focus on the action and describing the impact of that specific behavior without personal accusation.

4. Act quickly.

Resolving the conflict sooner than later will help to limit hurt feelings. You do have to pick your battles, but if a situation warrants action, confront it head on. Sticking to the previously defined process will help thoughts, feelings, and opinions become public and create innovative solutions not previously discussed.

5. Seek a win-win solution.

You do not have to be right, you have to improve the relationship and come to a conclusion that is beneficial for all parties involved. Balancing courage and consideration is fundamental to real maturity and helping the organization reach new heights.

Often, the win-win resolution is so powerful that new ideas generated blossom into opportunities not previously brought to light. Would you prefer to be known as the person you struggles to resolve conflict? Or, the person who creates opportunity?

I'd prefer the latter.

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