Conflict Management Behaviours
The following behaviors can be useful in helping the board or members effectively deal with conflict. While these behaviours appear to be common sense, common sense is usually lacking when there is a conflict. It might sound trite, but putting yourself in the other person shoes and adopting the golden rule of “Do unto others …” makes a whole lot of common sense, too.
- Use “I” statements. Let the other party know how you feel when the conflict is occurring as well as your reaction to the conflict. Also let the other person know which of your rights you feel is being ignored in the conflict. Example: “I don’t like when you don’t follow through on your assigned tasks. It makes it difficult for me to do my job if yours isn’t getting done. This behaviour is not considerate to me or my time.”
- Be assertive, not aggressive. Speak about your feelings and your reactions. Keep the statements focused on how you are behaving, thinking, and feeling rather than on how the other is acting. Try to take the emotions out of it and focus on the issue or behaviour that has caused the conflict.
- Speak calmly, coolly and rationally. In this way you will be listened to, and you will be able to maintain better control of yourself. Otherwise the other person may take on a defensive attitude.
- Avoid blaming. This will keep the communication flow going. It encourages understanding and empathy. It recognizes that for a conflict to exist there must be at least two parties who are adversely affected by the conflict.
- Create an atmosphere of cooperation. In an attempt to create an environment of cooperation after a conflict, all parties involved must feel that they are being listened to and understood; that their rights are being respected. They must feel the desire to work things out and a commitment to the process of working out the problems.
- Be willing to forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful tool. You have a chance for personal growth by forgiving others for their part in the conflict. At times, this is the only way to resolve a conflict.
- Be willing to forget. Once you have “resolved” a conflict and felt like you were listened to and understood, then “let go” of the conflict. Once you have implemented an agreed resolution, put aside the conflict. Put it behind you, move on and don’t bring it up in future discussions. In fact, you should have written proof of the resolution.
- Be honest. In resolving a conflict it is imperative that you be honest with yourself and others about your feelings, and reactions to the conflict and to the resolutions. If you are feeling uncomfortable with the outcome and it makes you feel “it is the way others wanted it to be,” then this resolution is a false one and will undoubtedly recur. You gain nothing by being dishonest in the management of conflict. You waste the time and energy of the board and end up feeling failure rather than growth.
- Focus on people’s perceptions and how they are feeling rather than the content. Effective listening and responding are key elements in the productive resolution of conflict. Listen for the feelings and emotions of those involved and reflect them with understanding and acknowledgement. This creates an atmosphere of cooperation and active listening. It reduces defensiveness and it focuses on the process involved rather than on the issues. Once the person feels listened to, clarify the issues and eliminate extraneous items.
- Show respect for yourself and others. You will gain more in resolving a conflict by showing respect (honey), than by showing disrespect (vinegar). If you are on the receiving end of disrespect, remove yourself as soon as possible. When things have cooled down, then the discussion can continue in a more respectful manner. If you lose your cool and become disrespectful, stop as soon as you can by either being quiet or removing yourself. Maintaining a respectful atmosphere is essential in resolving conflict.
- Be willing to apologize or admit a mistake. It is necessary to admit to one’s mistake and to apologize for one’s behaviour before a stalemate in conflict resolution can be overcome. It takes courage, character and fortitude to admit an error or lack of judgment; an uncalled for action; disrespectful behaviour; or a lack of concern or understanding. Stronger relationships can result when such willingness is exhibited.
- Be willing to compromise. If you cling to your position as the only one to be considered, your are closing out the other person or position. To succeed in resolving conflict, all parties must feel like they have gained in the resolution. In order to resolve a conflict where the opposing parties are at opposite extremes on an issue, there is a need to come to the middle if all are to experience a “winning” posture. Only through compromise can each be a winner in conflict resolution. Without compromise, you have either given in and lost or have gotten your way and lost. Ideally, all parties should feel they have won.