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Conflict Management

Article by: Anusha Mitra | Edited by: Tista Banerjee | Illustration by: Nivedita Tripathi

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” – James Hume

Today in a world full of inter-dependencies, the interaction between individuals or even between individuals and their surroundings hold a pivotal role in their lives. It not only helps in building up human relationships but also stems into conflicts. This eventually leads to a state of unrest and emotional turmoil. It has been seen that individuals often come in conflict with their immediate family members such as parents, siblings, etc. Family conflict is a normal part and parcel of life. However, if these conflicts continue to stretch over a long period of time then the structures holding the family might start to wobble, leading to an unhealthy atmosphere filled with stress and difficulties.

Conflict Management Strategies:

According to the two-dimensional model of conflict-handling behavior by Kenneth Thomas, an individual in a conflict situation behaves either in an assertive or cooperative way. These two dimensions have been quite fruitful in defining the five methods of the Thomas-Kilmann model used to deal with conflicts.

Competing: This approach is power-oriented and assertive. When a person is competing, he/she is fulfilling personal concern at the expense of others to win his/her position. Children often use this strategy to deal with disagreements with their parents and siblings by persuading them to accept their position when their rights are being challenged. For example, if a child wants to be a musician against the parent’s will, he/she might want to put forward his/her position in front of the family.

Collaborating: It is both assertive and cooperative. When an individual is collaborating with someone, he/she is working together to find a solution for both. For instance, it is said that sibling relations are the most lasting social ties across human life span (Cicirelli, 1995). Sibling rivalry can tend to be most common among growing children. Thus, collaborating strategy can be quite beneficial for the parents to imbibe their kids with support and emotional closeness to their other siblings.

Compromising: It is intermediate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. When compromising, the aim is to find an expedient, come to a mutual acceptable solution that partially satisfies both the issues. Through evidence it has been seen that compromising can sometimes convey respect and understanding on the part of the parents towards the feeling, ideas and demands of the children. Thus, for example, if the child wants to play in response to the parent’s persuasion to study, the parent can compromise the time between study and play to meet both the concerns.

Avoiding: It is unassertive and uncooperative approach. When avoiding, neither does an individual address his/her own concerns nor does he/she address the issues of others. It is mere neglecting the issue altogether. For instance, sometimes it is important for the parent to be hopeful and optimistic about their children and realize that sibling rivalry is inevitable and that as children grow and mature, they learn ways to handle conflicts. The rivalry usually subsides. Thus, sometimes it is advisable to let the children be and not interfere, for them to figure out alternatives.

Accommodating: It is cooperative and unassertive. It is the exact opposite of competing. When a person accommodates, he/she neglects his/her own concerns and concentrates on the concerns of the others. It has an element of self-sacrifice. This strategy is important for preserving and building relationship than winning over the issue. It has been seen through research that often the elder siblings tend to be accommodating towards the needs, feelings and demands of the younger siblings in order to restore harmony and be more supportive, caring and nurturing towards them. It is also applicable to the parents for the love of their children.

We might prefer one approach over the others in dealing with a conflict situation. However, each of the strategies can be used effectively in a particular situation.

Resolving Conflicts:

Another important factor is to improve one’s abilities to resolve conflicts for choosing the best conflict resolution strategy effectively. Some of the core skills for dealing with conflicts are:

● Reflective/Active listening.

● Identification of particular points of disagreement.

● Expression of personal needs and concerns.

● Viewing conflict as an opportunity of growth.

● Focusing on specific issues without generalizing or complicating the situation.

Summing up:

Although having a proclivity towards a certain type of conflict resolution approach is quite usual, it may not be as effective or serve the same purpose in every situation. With time and effort, one can learn and even improve the earlier mentioned skills for managing a conflict situation and select the appropriate method of conflict resolution that is best suited for the situation as opposed to the one that is more comfortable or familiar.

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