There are many conflict resolution strategies to choose from. Each situation, due to its unique characteristics such as your goals, the amount of leverage you have or constraints that limits your action – requires a different strategy. In this sense, suggesting a conflict resolution strategy is like offering someone a shirt without knowing his dressing preference, the weather is hanging out in or what the accepted dress code is where he's going.
Yet, when discussing conflict resolution strategies, there are a few leading strategies that are true in (almost) any situation. Extending the above given shirt example, whatever your dressing preferences, the weather and the dress code, you'll be needing a pair of underwear.
I've been delivering conflict resolution strategies workshops for over 17 years. There is one ultimate blocker that I witness again and again in my workshops that cause people to get themselves more tangled in any conflict. Indeed, it doesn't matter if it's a workplace conflict or a family conflict, the same human need, blocks its beholder from moving things forward.
This ultimate conflict resolution strategy blocker is the need to understand.
Our need to understand is a selfish need. Now, if you are familiar with my 'Rationalism Egoism' model called the I Win (Which is explained in depth in my book The I Win Negotiation & Conflict Approach: Compromise Less And Win More with A Better Alternative To The Win-Win Approach) you know that I don't resent selfishness, on the contrary, I claim that It's the most stable point to any action, let along a collaborative one. Yet, the problem with the need to understand is that this need blinds and hence restricts us, from doing the right thing during a conflict.
The chances that you’ll understand the other side’s point of view, his action or motives are slim to zero. During conflicts, the mind undergoes processes that prevent us from fully duplicating other points of view. We cling to our own point of view, construct reason to support it and find example to prove its sustainability. We are unable to understand any other point of view but our own when conflict related mind process prevail. Hence, the need to understand will only intensify the resentment we'll feel towards the other side because we are incapable of understanding him. The need to understand along with the inability to understand creates a vicious cycle that, among other things, is fuelling the fire of conflict.
The need to understand is futile, not only process wise but also content wise. Understanding is not a prerequisite for collaboration. You don't need to understand the other side's motives, interests or constraints in order to create a solution. You need to accept them as given and combine whatever the other side brings into a solution that best answers your need.
Think about it for a second, what if you won't understand the other side's need in what you may regard as an obsessive – compulsive need of order yet the solution that you'll create will be one that you can live with and will answer all of the things that are important to you? Not only that the formation of a mutual agreed solution doesn't require understanding but the latter will often block its creation.
If each side to the conflict will cling to this human inherent need of understanding, then each will be sucked into the vicious cycle I've described above. The only way to escape from this cycle, or better not fall for it in the first place, is when one of the parties forgives this need and then initiate conflict handling actions. When both sides are occupied with their need to understand, no constructive conflicting actions can be taken because the need to understand serves as a hurdle which prevents the conflicting parties to see beyond it.
There is a very good chance you're nodding right now or perhaps even saying to yourself, "that's obvious!" well, as true or obvious as this may sound, the main challenge is not in mentally understanding it but rather implementing it in real life situations. If what I wrote resonate true to you, then you should focus your attention into turning this understanding into a practical tool and weave it into your Conflict Resolution Strategies toolbox.
The first step in turning any cognitive understanding into a behavioral change is by putting constant awareness into situations that require its implantation. If you want to lose weight, you should start by identifying the reasons/situations that make you eat more than you should and pour your understanding into situation you are prone to overeat.
So, in your next conflict, and in the ones after it, be extremely aware to the rise of the need to understand within you. If you feel frustrated by not understanding the other side's behavior, if you hear yourself saying "Gee, I just don't understand why he's doing this" or any other way your need to understand might manifest, then use the cognitive understanding you've acquired from this material to let go of this need. Use your understanding and tell your mind that not only that you are currently incapable of understanding the other side but that there is a good chance that such an understanding won't help you in creating the right solution for you.
Like most conflict resolution strategies, this is by far easier written than done. The ego that takes over our mind during a conflict has an incredible power over us so it is likely to fight your attempt to deny it from its power by fighting you back. If you're older than 40 then you are probably aware to the grave price that you pay for the egoic need of understanding. That's what this need is, an egoic need that has nothing to do with your greater good. Armed with this understanding, walk the path of dissolving your own ego.
More about the connection between the conflicts and ego can be found in my book The Romance of Ego & Conflict: A Practical & Spiritual Guide For Improving Your Conflict & Negotiation Abilities By Dissolving Your Own Ego. More free material can be found in our Resource Center. Please check our Shop for both e-books and e-courses on subjects like Conflict Resolution Strategies, Negotiation Tactics and much more.