The means of effectively resolving a conflict vary depending on how the concept of conflict is understood. They can also vary depending on the specific context in which it occurs. For example, a strategy applied to resolve a conflict in the family may not be effective, but it may be to resolve a conflict within an organization.
However, the social sciences have offered us different guidelines for generating resolution strategies that are more or less applicable to different contexts. Below we will see a brief definition of conflict offered by psychology; followed by 5 ways to effectively resolve a conflict which have been proposed by some experts in conflict and negotiation theories.
What is a conflict?
Organizational psychologist Mary Parquet Follet (ct. In Domínguez Bilbao and García Dauder, 2005) defines conflict as the result of a difference, which is, in turn, an interaction of desires. Beyond ethical prejudices (beyond knowing whether the conflict is good or bad), it is about the emergence of a divergence of opinions and interests.
According to Domínguez Bilbao and García Dauder (2005), understanding the conflict has had different facets throughout its history. Previously it was understood and treated as a negative, and therefore something to be avoided. From here, the causality of the conflict was understood from dysfunctional elements, Which then translated into individual, group or communication behaviors and situations.
Subsequently, the conflict was conceived on the basis of its goodness, that is, its possible advantages. Since then the conflict has been assumed as an essential element within groups and organizations; not necessarily negative, but as one more opportunity to broaden the horizons of interaction and management.
5 strategies and tips to effectively resolve a conflict
Theories of conflict and negotiation have developed considerably in psychology, affecting in particular the field of organizations, but also other fields where interpersonal relationships are analyzed.
In the 1981s, American conflict resolution and negotiation experts William Ury, Roger Fisher, and Bruce Patton published a book called Get the Yes. In it, they described 5 ways to resolve conflict effectively, through negotiation. These forms are still in force to this day and they can have application in different contexts. We describe them below.
1. People are not the problem
Conflict has effects at the level of individual experiences, that is, it involves emotions, values and points of view. In many cases, this is forgotten or no longer prioritized because we focus more on organizational interests. In that case, the authors tell us that effective negotiation begins to separate people from the problemIn other words, to analyze the problem independently of those to whom we attribute the responsibility.
To do this, we recommend that you think of conflicts as having their roots in one of the following three dimensions: perception, emotion or communication. Recognize the latter by keeping us empathetic towards others; do not attribute responsibility for the conflict to other people and avoid emotionally explosive reactions. It can also help us stay focused on our interests so that we don’t give in more than is appropriate.
2. The most important thing is interest
In line with the above, the authors tell us that behind the positions people take in the face of conflict, there are a number of interests that motivate us, and sometimes hide.
If, instead of standing firm in positions, we care to explore the interests behind them, we will most likely find that there are shared and shareable needs and interests. In turn, the latter allows us to achieve effective negotiation.
In short, since conflict is above all a confrontation of different interests, it is important to focus on these rather than on the positions we take individually.
3. Seek mutual benefit
Another of the principles of conflict resolution and negotiation is to generate options for mutual benefit. It often happens that in a conflict situation, it is believed that there is no way for everyone to benefit from the final decision.
This hinders the negotiation process and, in general, goes through four fairly common obstacles: making premature judgments; look for unique answers; think that the conflict has a fixed form; and to think that the solution to the problem is the problem itself. The authors tell us that through an empathetic attitude we can seek mutual benefit. In other words, we can offer trading options that at least partially favor all parties.
4. Prioritize objective criteria
The authors recommend continuing to insist that objective criteria be used from the outset of negotiations. In other words, without neglecting empathy and “win-win”, we must be realistic and assume that sometimes there will be differences which can only be reconciled under very high costs, At least for some of the parts. Thus, in this case, the negotiation must be conducted on a basis beyond the control of those involved.
5. Take into account power relations
Finally, the authors tell us that effective conflict resolution may be unlikely in cases where influence, power and authority are deposited in only one of the stakeholders. In that case, negotiation is about trying not to agree on something that goes totally against our principles or interests, and try to make the most of the agreements and final decisions, even if they are made unilaterally.
- Domínguez Bilbao, R. and García Dauder, S. (2005). Constructive conflict and integration in the work of Mary Parquet Follet. Athenea Digital, 7: 1-28.
- Leaders’ Summaries (2003-2018). Summary of the book “Get the yes, the art of negotiating without giving in.” Library of business summaries. Accessed July 6, 2018.Available at https://www.leadersummaries.com/ver-resumen/obtenga-el-si.