Managing Conflicts and Disagreements

.Managing conflicts and disagreements with colleagues and associates has become part of a daily routine as such events have become inevitable part of our profession. Benefitting or not benefitting from such situations solely depends on what kind of situation the parties are in and how it is dealt. You can sometimes benefit from conflict, avoid hurt feelings and damaged relationships by resolving disputes through respect, negotiation, and little bit of compromise too.

We don’t need to engage in open tussle over every disagreement. At the end every professional / executive / individual has a perspective different than many others. Once we realise that others too have their view, one may not get sucked into conflicts that can be detrimental to the interests of both the parties. If both sides keep an equilibrium and work, then everything else will fall in line. If you feel that working through the disagreement is more important than maintaining the peace, then nothing in the world can resolve it. And if the debate is likely to create more problems than it solves it is better to remain neutral or change the track itself.

 

The minimum one should do in the event of a conflict is to keep away from it for a while so that the person gets sufficient time to think of the situation a little more clearly and can crystallise the possible or next workable strategy.

However, the best way, undisputable, is to avoid a conflict and if and when you start smelling a possible one, it is much better to start looking the other way. And, with a cool head, look at the situation much more closely and try to nip the possible reason in the bud itself. There can be no room for wishful thinking in such issues because one cannot predict what turn small conflicts are likely to take eventually. The worst is to underestimate person on the other side of the table.

When we talk about managing conflicts, the very first lesson is that one has to learn to listen; not necessarily digesting what one heard in its entirety. Practice the “shut up and listen” technique. While it is a must listening to others, forming an opinion or acting on such information and the final judgment should always be on one’s own. Many times the informers also could be opinionated persons and taking a position on such opinions may prove suicidal.

Many times it is not that none of the other person’s points can be agreed. There could always be a point or two where both may agree and my experience says it is always better to start from those little points that are agreeable to both. At least the effected party among the two is likely to a get a signal that you are trying to understand their point of view as well, and they may show more willingness to listen to yours. Whatever could be provocation, if any one of the parties takes the others statement on person, there is every chance of the initiative breaking down; and always better to avoid personal attacks or comments? Don’t make the conflict individual centric, make it issue centric.

Similarly, I firmly believe that by focusing on one issue or conflict at a time, there are always chances to manage it better. I have found that it is the secondary issues that cloud the main issue. Knowingly or unknowingly we allow it to happen and get strayed away from the core issue. It is always better to remain non-judgmental about our counterpart when we approach an issue of serious consequence because by being so, one is most likely to resolve the issue. Who won should not be the end of an issue? Is the issue well settled is going to be the last question. Before approaching the issue one should assess the possible outcome of each tactic we intent to use and accordingly a sensible line should be adopted.

Each of us at some point of time might have wished before entering the discussion that “with my argument I am not going to allow the other person to get away just like that”. Whereas the fact is that when you stop trying to “defeat your opponent,” you’ll be more receptive to good ideas and resolve conflicts quicker. We can’t change everything or everybody. You can’t force others to agree with you; so no meaning to keep arguing in an attempt to do so. Since we can’t change the past either, it is absurd to get caught up in a conflict about something that’s already happened. Even if the person / persons opposite you are proven rogues, you cant afford to disrespect them in a forum. By rubbing or intimidating, conflicts can’t be resolved amicably is the proven fact.

Therefore, if nothing works, we can always disagree with the other person and walk away by agreeing to settle the things at the earliest. But I, still, emphasise that before disagreeing totally, it is always better to make a sound evaluation – preferably through a third person – because this could help us evaluate a similar situation elsewhere, should it recur.

For me, every conflict faced, indulged and resolved always gave professional growth in terms of dealing with situations. In addition, such situations gave me an unknown capacity to foresee and pre-empt any possible conflicts arising out of decisions. And this is the premises that prompted me to scribble down what I think is right in resolving conflicts.

The more you understand about managing conflicts and disagreements, you will be better placed to negotiate, compromise, and emerge from disputes of any kind with stronger and more productive relationships.

 

Madhu K. Nair [23rd August 2003]

Footnote:

Every conflict you manage, dispute you resolve or fail to resolve can make you a man of maturity as well a man of steel. These small experiences prepare you to foresee and pre-empt possible conflicts / disputes arising out of the decisions you intent to make in the immediate future. All depends on what one learns from the day’s encounters.

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