Recommending a conflict resolution strategy is like recommending, to one, a means of travelling. Taking a motorbike ride can be a great option for traveling along a scenic road on a sunny day and a miserable one if you have to cover a long distance at night, especially during a rough weather. Strategy is the result of many factors such as the goals you'd like to achieve, the constraints along the way, different contextual factors and many other things.
Although forming a strategy is the result of so many subjective parameters, there are still a few leading strategies that one might consider using in most cases.
In this post I would like to list these leading conflict resolution strategies.
The number of times you should avoid the initiation of communication with the other side are very limited. In the unlikely event that the other side is a terrorist, direct communication might be perceived as legitimizing him as a negotiation partner, yet in all other situation communication is rightfully considered the most simple and effective problem solving tool. Unfortunately the first thing that conflicting parties lose when a conflict erupt is the willingness, along with the ability, to communicate. If and when they do communicate, it is likely to be in a very unconstructive way.
Effective communication abilities, like mathematical skills, are not something that one acquires overnight. Hence, if you find yourself involved in a conflict and you sincerely know that your communication skills are wanting, hire a good conflict advisor to help you mange the conflict. I would recommend that you shouldn’t start improving your communication skills while managing a conflict - one challenge, managing the conflict in the best way, is enough.
If you consider your communication skills good enough, counter the inner voice that restrains you from communicating with the other side. Put your eyes on your goals and initiate communication with the other side that will enable you to achieve these goals. Indeed, the other side might reject your invitation to communicate yet you may be surprised by the number of times you won't be rejected and if you will be, at least you'll be left with the knowing that you did try.
Letting the other side know you have a 'gun'
That's a tricky issue - how do you let the other side know what kind of alternatives you have to the current situation without being perceived as making a threat? The boundaries of any negotiation are set by each side's alternatives. If one side can maximize its utility by using its alternative, it will go ahead and use it. Hence, the way to gently persuade the other side to try and mutually work out a solution is by letting him know he might be better off refraining from using its own, and hence, your alternative.
To learn more about the gentle areas of using 'guns' before and during negotiations, please read my book ‘Negotiation Tactics - Levers, Guns and Sanctions’.
Appointing yourself a devil's advocate
This strategy is one of my most favorite conflict resolution strategies as it's amazing how fast we become blind during a conflict. We get so engaged with our own point of view, justifications, motivation and any other ingredient that builds the story we tell ourselves why we are right and the other side is wrong, that we become blind to any other point of view but our own. We'll defend this point of view as if our very lives are dependent on it and tragically get ourselves, too many times, into unnecessary turmoil.
This is where a devil advocate - a person that was appointed to contradict your point of view – can be of help. Confronted with an opposing point of view will force you to ask yourself why you're holding this point of view and more importantly, whether this point of view serves your greater good.
Any person can fit into the devil's advocate job as long as he/she understands that they have to resist their inherent tendency to support your point of view. When presented with the opposing point of view, don't try to explain why you are right but rather allow yourself to ponder your point of view in the light of the opposing point of view.
Moving your constituency aside
One of the characteristics of a conflict is that the longer its time line; the more the number of people involved grows. The number of your supporters grows along with spectators – constituency - that observe the conflict from the side. The more people watch the conflict, the more your ego is triggered and the more your ego is triggered, the potential for irrational decision on your behalf increases. Hence, move aside your constituency, try and make the process of handling the conflict as secretive as possible in order to allow you to act in the way that best serves your interests rather than provide your constituency with a good show.
Our life is embedded with many conflicts. Most of them are relatively minor with the member of our family, people we work with or even our friends. Yet because they are so frequent, acquiring conflict handling skills or conflict resolution strategies will dramatically improve your life for the better. Imagine how much time, emotional energy you'll save and how your career and relationships will benefit if you can improve your conflict resolution abilities by just 10%.
When, and that happens more rarely, you encounter a larger conflict, you might have to consult an expert yet you can successfully tackle the vast majority of your daily conflicts. So such training will pay itself 100 folds.
The list I've provided herein is far from being a full list. When dealing with human beings there are many ways to behave - many conflict resolution strategies that one can adopt. Regard the point given in the post as a starting point to vitally important life skills abilities - acquiring sustainable conflict resolution strategies.
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