Steps to Resolving Conflicts

By: Laurie Weiss

When it's clear that a conflict exists and you are the one who must do something about it, do this.

First understand that the process of conflict intervention can take almost any length of time, from a few minutes to several years. Steps in the process include:
?helping the participants identify their own needs, interests and values;
?discover their mutual and complementary needs;
?clarify areas of disagreement and search further for the bases of those disagreements;
?invent options for mutual gain; communicate effectively about those options;
?reach clear and complete agreements based on objective criteria.

Although strategies for intervening in conflict can be varied and creative, successful intervention strategies do have certain themes in common. The single most important guideline is to insist that all parties to the conflict be treated with respect.

Each participant has needs, issues and values which are, from his or her perspective, valid and important. If these are threatened by disrespect, the individual is likely to become frightened, show anger, escalate unreasonable demands and try to win at someone else's expense.

Individuals and groups of individuals are all attempting to achieve results they believe will cause them to survive, be satisfied or happy, or reach a goal they value. They also have differing needs, wants, ideas, opinions, values, goals and methods of operation.

Conflict arises when the goal-directed behavior of one person or group interferes with the goal-directed behavior of another.

Few individuals engaged in conflict actually intend to be destructive. Each intends some positive outcome (from his or her own perspective), and the damage done to someone else's territory is either accidental or seen as necessary to achieve a greater good.

When you are helping to resolve a conflict, it is important to keep in mind that conflict arises from attempts to attain positive results. Often the antagonists are even in agreement on the desired results and disagree only on the means for attaining them.

The problem is they may be so embroiled in the conflict that they do not know that they have a basic and fundamental agreement. They may be so focused on arguing about details and so angry at each other that they blame each other for the lack of resolution.

Your first job may be to get them to calm down and talk to each other with your main function being to direct traffic.

Remember that everyone involved already has, somewhere within themselves, the resources necessary for resolving their problem. Your job is not to tell them what to do.

Your most important job is to know what questions to ask to help clarify the situation and assist them in tapping their own resources.

Communications
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