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HOW TO MANAGE CONFLICT



"WHENEVER YOU'RE IN CONFLICT WITH SOMEONE, THERE IS ONE FACTOR THAT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DAMAGING YOUR RELATIONSHIP AND DEEPENING IT. THAT FACTOR IS ATTITUDE".
WILLIAM JAMES

 "CONFLICT IS INEVITABLE, BUT COMBAT IS OPTIONAL".
MAX LUCADE

 "PEACE IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF CONFLICT BUT THE PRESENCE OF CREATIVE ALTERNATIVES FOR RESPONDING TO CONFLICT - ALTERNATIVES TO PASSIVE OR AGGRESSIVE RESPONSES, ALTERNATIVES TO VIOLENCE."
DOROTHY THOMPSON

 ~ THE FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION IS PREVENTION.  WHEN YOU EARNESTLY USE THE SUGGESTIONS FOUND ON THE PREVIOUS PAGES YOU WILL USUALLY AVOID COMBAT AND REDUCE CONFLICT.


~  FORMAL, SIMPLE, WRITTEN, COLLABORATION AGREEMENTS BETWEEN ORGANIZATIONS AND AGENCIES CAN BE VERY HELPFUL FOR MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING AND FUNDING. THEY CAN ALSO HELP TO PREVENT CONFLICT THROUGH CLARIFICATION OF BOUNDARIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES.  YOU MAY ALSO FIND SOME HELPFUL INFORMATION ABOUT PREVENTING AND MANAGING STRESS HERE.


 ~ ACT, AVOID REACTING.
~ WHEN CONFLICT IS INEVITABLE, KEEP IT TO A MINIMUM.  DO NOT INCLUDE MORE PEOPLE THAN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.  (AVOID GOSSIP AND NEGATIVE COMMENTS.)


"HE THAT WOULD LIVE IN PEACE AND AT EASE MUST NOT SPEAK ALL HE KNOWS OR ALL HE SEES."
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN


 SOMETIMES WISDOM IS NOT SO MUCH KNOWING WHAT TO SAY, AS IT IS KNOWING WHEN TO KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT, AND THEN KEEPING IT SHUT.


~ NEVER EXPECT ANYTHING THAT YOU SAY OR WRITE TO BE KEPT CONFIDENTIAL.  BOTH THE WRITTEN AND SPOKEN WORD HAVE A WAY OF GETTING TO THOSE WHOM YOU LEAST WANT TO HEAR OR READ THEM.


~ E-MAIL IS A GREAT ASSET, BUT IS SOMETIMES TOO QUICK. IN THE PAST IF YOU WROTE A LETTER, YOU HAD SOME TIME TO THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU HAD WRITTEN, AND IF THERE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A MORE TACTFUL WAY TO HAVE SAID IT. USUALLY YOU WOULD HAVE THE TIME TO RETRIEVE AND REWRITE THE LETTER. TODAY WE CAN QUICKLY REACT AND HIT SEND. ANY E-MAIL SHOULD BE REREAD OUT LOUD. WHEN IT IS A POSSIBLY CONFLICTUAL SUBJECT, WRITE THE E-MAIL, THEN WAIT A FEW HOURS, OR A FEW DAYS, AND REREAD IT BEFORE SENDING. SOMETIMES, EVEN AN ABSOLUTELY PERFECT RESPONSE (IF THERE IS SUCH A THING) CAN CAUSE ESCALATION WHEN THERE ISN'T ENOUGH TIME BETWEEN MESSAGES FOR TEMPERS TO COOL AND CLEAR THINKING TO TAKE ROOT.


~ WHEN YOU PUT SOMETHING IN WRITING, REQUEST SOMEONE WHO IS REMOVED FROM THE SITUATION, OBJECTIVE, AND SKILLED IN DIPLOMACY, TO REVIEW THE MATERIAL TO HELP YOU AVOID ANY FURTHER ANTAGONISM AND ENCOURAGE RESOLUTION. CONFLICT IS NATURAL AS ARE CYCLES OF CONFLICT.  A THIRD, SKILLED AND OBJECTIVE PERSON, CAN OFTEN HELP TO BREAK THE CYCLE.


~ SOMETIMES IT MAY BE HELPFUL TO MAKE AN AUDIO RECORDING OF MEETINGS.


~ IF AT ALL POSSIBLE AVOID CONTENTIOUS VOTES.  DISCUSS POSSIBLY CONTENTIOUS AND CONTROVERSIAL VOTES, ONE ON ONE OR IN SMALL GROUPS, BEFORE THE MEETING.  LOOK FOR ANY POSSIBLE COMPROMISE WHICH FULFILLS EVERYONE'S MOST IMPORTANT NEEDS.  BE SURE THAT CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES ARE ON THE AGENDA AND THAT EVERYONE HAS A COPY IN ADVANCE OF THE MEETING.  TRY TO AVOID POSSIBLY CONTROVERSIAL SURPRISES.  THE SURPRISE CAN OFTEN WORSEN THE CONTROVERSY.


~ DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL THINGS.  REMEMBER THE PRIZE (GOAL), WHICH WILL BE BETTER ACCOMPLISHED THROUGH GOOD UNDERSTANDING AND RELATIONSHIPS.


~ ALWAYS BE MAGNANIMOUS, AND ASSERTIVE AS NECESSARY.  IT'S AMAZING WHAT CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED THROUGH GOOD RELATIONSHIPS.


~ CONSIDER MEDIATION BY A SKILLED, OBJECTIVE, OUTSIDE, MEDIATOR.


~ EVERYONE HAS DIFFERENT GIFTS. WE NEED TO LEARN TO APPRECIATE THESE GIFTS. FOCUS ON A PERSON'S STRENGTHS. NOT EVERYONE MAY BE AS IMPASSIONED ABOUT A PROJECT, PROGRAM, OR CAUSE, AS YOU ARE. SOME PEOPLE MAY CARE DEEPLY, BUT FEEL THAT THEY NEED TO MEET OTHER OBLIGATIONS, OR THEIR PRIORITIES MAY BE DIFFERENT FROM YOURS. THEY CAN AND WILL STILL CONTRIBUTE, THEIR CONTRIBUTION MAY BE EXTREMELY VALUABLE, AND SOMETIMES THEY WILL PROVIDE SOME BALANCE AND PERSPECTIVE. SOMETIMES CONFLICT ARISES OUT OF UNFULFILLED EXPECTATIONS.


~ OCCASIONALLY, THOUGH RARELY, IT MAY BE NECESSARY TO START OVER WITH A SMALLER, LESS CONFLICTUAL GROUP.  


~ OCCASIONALLY THERE ARE PEOPLE, WHO FOR VARIOUS REASON ACT IN WAYS WHICH ARE DESTRUCTIVE AND DIVISIVE.  USUALLY THESE PEOPLE CAN BE WORKED WITH AND DIFFICULTIES CAN BE OVERCOME.  SOMETIMES IT MAY BE NECESSARY TO DISTANCE THE GROUP FROM A PERSON SUCH AS THIS.  NORMALLY, THIS SHOULD BE USED AS AN ABSOLUTE LAST RESORT.
  THIS CAN SOMETIMES CAUSE AS MANY OR MORE PROBLEMS AS IT RESOLVES.


~ SOMETIMES USING MORE FORMAL AND GENERALLY ACCEPTED MEETING PROCEDURES CAN HELP TO ALLEVIATE CONFLICT.  YOU MAY WANT TO ADOPT SOME OR ALL OF THE ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER REVISED.


~ YOU MAY ALSO WANT TO REVIEW AND ADOPT SOME OF THE MANY USEFUL AND PRACTICAL RESOURCES AND STRATEGIES FOUND IN THE CONFLICT RESOLUTION INFORMATION SOURCE.


~ REMEMBER THAT THERE IS OFTEN A LIFETIME OF WORK WHICH CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED WHEN YOU FOCUS ON AREAS OF PRIMARY AND BASIC AGREEMENT.


~ REMEMBER TO LET GO AND FORGIVE.

 "BUT PEACE DOES NOT REST IN THE CHARTERS AND COVENANTS ALONE. IT LIES IN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF ALL PEOPLE. SO LET US NOT REST ALL OUR HOPES ON PARCHMENT AND ON PAPER, LET US STRIVE TO BUILD PEACE, A DESIRE FOR PEACE, A WILLINGNESS TO WORK FOR PEACE IN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF ALL OF OUR PEOPLE. I BELIEVE THAT WE CAN. I BELIEVE THE PROBLEMS OF HUMAN DESTINY ARE NOT BEYOND THE REACH OF HUMAN BEINGS".
JOHN F. KENNEDY



ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
THE MANDT SYSTEM

 UNITED STATES INSTITUTE OF PEACE

Sometimes a conflict represents a crucial conversation that needs to take place.  When this occurs, you may find some of the resources from Vital Smarts very helpful and effective.