A Blueprint to Resolve Conflicts Amicably 

By Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.

The purpose of this paper is to resolve conflicts with a case study. It outlines the signs, signals and symptoms of conflicts. It offers tips, tools, and techniques to resolve conflicts amicably. It enlightens that conflict is like a battle that takes place between two or more people or groups when nobody is willing to accept the others’ perspective. It concludes to look at the commonalities among the people rather than looking at the differences.  

Introduction 

“The art of looking at the problem from the other person’s point of view, identifying his opportunities and his interests, an art that has traditionally been practiced by diplomats, lawyers, and chess players, is at the center of strategic analysis.” ―Thomas C. Schelling 

The principal of an engineering college recommended the names of two faculty members for the 5-day Workshop on Soft Skills to be conducted by a reputed Information technology (IT) company. The company asked the institution to recommend three faculty members so that one would be short-listed for the Workshop. The principal was compelled to recommend the third faculty member who was highly talented and qualified with two and half decades of defense experience. All three faculty members undertook an online test conducted by the company and ultimately selected the third faculty and informed the same to him by email to attend the workshop. 

Unfortunately, the principal never liked the short-listed Faculty because he had filters and reservations within his mind. He was partial, jealous with a negative attitude and approach. He requested the company to remove the short-listed faculty so that he could send another inferior faculty who butters the principal. The company asked out of curiosity the reason behind the replacement of the Faculty. The principal replied that the short-listed faculty was not good enough to be trained and was incompetent to take up the course. The company vehemently asked, “Why did you recommend his name initially when you know that he was not competent and quickly added that the Faculty secured excellent rank and he was the only deserving candidate to be called for the workshop”. The principal fell into a trap. He found it very hard to defend himself and insisted on the replacement of the Faculty. But the company was one of the leading IT companies and obliged the principal although they allowed the talented and short-listed faculty to attend the course. It was an avoidable conflict but unfortunately, the principal was noted for bossism and sadism and intolerant to accept the talented faculty. However, the IT Company was a reputed one who always believed in values and allowed both the faculty members to the workshop mainly to take the talented faculty as well as it please the adamant and biased principal. 

The faculty realized that justice could not be delivered because the situation was like a fence eating the crop. The principal was stopping him by instructing the incompetent person to proceed to the workshop. He tried to approach the management who were supportive and fair but unfortunately, the key persons were not available to resolve the conflict. The Faculty was bold, upright, and forthright and he applied for Loss of Pay for the duration and attended the workshop. 

From this case study of a principal, he was partial, negative-oriented with sadistic streaks. The conflict could have been averted if the Principal had fair and respected the judgment and selection of the company. Secondly, things did not work out for the faculty to approach the higher authorities as time was short and the key heads were not available. 

Conflict is like a battle that takes place between two or more people or groups when nobody is willing to accept the others’ perspective. It may be due to the clash of interests ambitions, or egos or due to various other reasons. 

Conflict in minor cases leads to productive results but in the majority of cases leads to chaos and crisis. In this context, it is desirable to explain that conflict management is a concept is plays a crucial role in the corporate world. 

Conflict Management  

“Let me remind you of the particular characteristics of all of these behavior systems that I am trying to focus on. It is that people are impinging on other people and adapting to other people. What people do affects what other people do.” ―Thomas C. Schelling 

Thomas C. Schelling is known as the Father of Conflict Management. He played a pivotal role related to this field by authoring the Strategy of Conflict in 1960. He was a Nobel laureate. 

Conflict Management is the process of handling grievances or divergent views or opinions that are left unaddressed and unredressed. It is also the process where imaginary perceptions with the realities are aligned and brought together to maintain a harmonious and peaceful climate.  

Nowadays there is growing demand at the workplace due to the stiff competition in the corporate world. It has become difficult for the employees to reconcile with various tensions resulting in conflicts and contentions. Having an understanding of conflict management is relevant to diagnosing the factors and forces behind conflicts. 

Signs, Signals and Symptoms 

At times competition results in conflict. When people have similar interests and consider the same as superior or supreme, they will pursue them up to the hilt. When two more warring groups or people pursue the same without any let up and with a ruthless attitude gives rise to conflicts. 

When people are faced with frequent failures they get self-doubt about their competencies and qualities resulting in frustrations. Such a scenario will sometimes force to any extent to fulfill resulting in conflicts.  

People in general have certain aspirations and expectations in their lives and if the gap between the same realities is widened conflicts do occur. 

Different cultural backgrounds among the people give rise to different perceptions and if there is no synchronization and coordination, the conflicts take place. 

Conflict is also due to the inability to communicate and comprehend in a given situation or scenario. Lack of proper understanding or misunderstandings create conflicts.  

Ego clashes and false prestige will enable one to think ill of others resulting in badmouthing and conflicts.  

Lack of clarity of approach towards the issues and preconceived notions will spell disaster in human relations. Frequent arguments by a few people who want to prove their point without being kind enough. Usually people with an inferiority complex resort to too many arguments to get noticed. Because such people are never taken seriously by others as they are incapable. 

The inability to empathize with others is one of the causes of conflict. Unable to get into the shoes of others and unable to look at things from others’ perspectives.  

When people are not habituated to work in teams then they struggle to get along with the team members as they are not good at group dynamics. Initially, for some periods, the conflicts tend to rise.

Effects 

The main issues of importance get sidetracked thereby affecting the overall performance. People will not be able to concentrate on regular activities due to excessive thinking about conflicts. Sometimes it may lead to negative thinking and cultivate the attitude to retaliate. A rise in stress levels may culminate in getting burned out.  

However, in rare cases, conflicts can create constructive and creative effects. If there is a positive attitude and approach between both sides the misunderstandings and miscommunication can be minimized. Over all the results of conflicts are counterproductive.  

How to Resolve Conflicts Amicably? 

There are three types of resolving the conflicts viz negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. In the case of negotiation, the contending and competing parties will come together with their representatives to find a viable situation for the problem. Both parties select a trustworthy and reliable person to represent the group to resolve the conflict. A lot of communication skills are essential to negotiate effectively.  

In the case of mediation, the warring groups approach a third party who is acceptable to all the affected groups to resolve the conflict. It is a very difficult and complicated process to select an effective and efficient mediator. The mediator calls the contending parties, listens to them actively and attentively, and by reasoning and logic he will resolve the conflict keeping justice as supreme.  

In the case of arbitration, a person or panel of judges will be appointed who is honest and above board to solve the problem. Whatever decision is taken by the arbitrator should be honored by all the concerned contending parties. Here are some tips, tools, and techniques to resolve conflicts amicably.  

  • Never sweep the problems under the rug and never allow the conflict to become a crisis. Try to nip it in the bud before conflict becomes chaos.
  • Always try to empathize with the parties. Get into the shoes and look at the situation from others’ perspective. Such an attitude and approach will resolve most of the conflict.
  • Dr.Stephen R. Covey highlighted about emphatic listening in his book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. Patient listening will help get at the root of the conflict rapidly and help in quickly resolving the conflict.
  • Never attack the party but rather attack the behavior of the party thereby depersonalizing the conflicts and making things much easier to resolve.
  • Conflict is largely a perceived phenomenon. Active listening helps in taking things seriously and it helps in understanding the underlying and real hidden issues involved in the conflict. The contending parties often do not disclose the real intentions and the problems. Active listening paves the way for grasping, grilling, and grounding the same.
  • Always make the negotiation a win-win so that nobody is hurt and humiliated and all are ready to accept the solution. It is a Herculean task but excellent negotiators are good at making it possible and feasible.
  • If the conflict appears to be complicated and big then dissect and diagnose. After analyzing in part wise, then gradually assemble the same as a single entity solution.
  • Neither submissive nor dominant communication helps. What helps in resolving the conflicts is the assertive communication.
  • Think differently and follow unconventional methods to resolve the conflict. The same tool may not be applied in all situations. Each situation calls for separate strategies. Creative techniques and innovative and imaginative approaches are essential in resolving conflicts.
  • Take one conflict at a time and face it squarely. And don’t run away from the problems.
  • Be sensitive to the situation and look at the conflict from many angles and perspectives to arrive at the best solution.

Look at the Commonalities 

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” —Nelson Mandela 

As long as the humans are there, the conflicts are bound to erupt. There are always differences in opinions, views, perceptions, attitudes, aptitudes, and approaches. What is essential is the prevention of conflicts through effective and efficient communication. If the conflicts are not averted it would result in a crisis. To sum it up, let us look at the commonalities among the people rather than looking at the differences. The common thread running across the people make human life peaceful, pleasant, and memorable.

 

About the Author

M.S. Rao, Ph.D.Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with forty-three years of experience and the author of fifty-two books including the award-winning See the Light in You’ URL: https://www.amazon.com/See-Light-You-Spiritual-Mindfulness/dp/1949003132. He has published over 300 papers and articles in prestigious international publications including Leader to Leader, Thunderbird International Business Review, Strategic HR Review, Development and Learning in Organizations, Industrial and Commercial Training, On the Horizon, and Entrepreneur magazine. He is a soldier, entrepreneur, editor, educator, author, enlightener, and philosopher. He is a C-Suite advisor and global keynote speaker. He brings a strategic eye and long-range vision given his multifaceted professional experience including military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He trains a new generation of leaders through leadership education and publications. His vision is to build one million students as global leaders by 2030 URL: http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.com/2014/12/professor-m-s-raos-vision-2030-one_31.html.  He advocates gender equality globally (#HeForShe). He invests his time in authoring books and blogging on executive education, learning, and leadership. Most of his work is available free of charge on his four blogs including http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.com. He is a prolific author and a dynamic, energetic, and inspirational leadership speaker. He can be reached at msrlctrg@gmail.com

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