“Conflict is a perceived divergence of interests, a belief that the parties’ current aspirations are incompatible. In other words, conflict is a belief that if one party gets what it wants the other (or others) will not be able to get what they want” (Pruitt & Kin, 2004).
Conflict is a normal and unavoidable part of life. Most of us think that conflict is always negative but sometimes it can be positive. Conflict is a struggle that results from a perceived belief that a person cannot achieve their needs because of another person’s needs. Escalation occurs when one or both parties adopt contentious tactics that are harsher than those previously used.
SOURCES OF CONFLICT
Conflict can be internal or external. They can be a result of a lack of resources information, or power. It can stem from a difference or lack of understanding about values. Relationships can be a source of conflict. Societal structure can also cause conflict.
Underlying Needs: Conflicts are also caused by human needs not being met. Regardless of where you are from or how you were raised, we all have the same basic human needs. Human needs are those requirements for survival and healthy physical, social, intellectual, and emotional development.
HOW TO HANDLE CONFLICT?
Social scientist Kenneth Thomas and industrial psychologist Ralph Kilmann identified five “conflict handling modes” shown below.
COMPETING- Completing is a power-oriented mode. When competing, an individual pursues his or her own concerns at the other person’s expense, using whatever power seems appropriate to win his or her position - the ability to argue, rank, economic sanctions, etc. Competing might mean standing up for your rights, defending a position you believe is correct, or simply trying to win.
ACCOMMODATING- Accommodating the the opposite of competing. When accommodating, an individual neglects his or her own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person; there is an element of self-sacrifice in this mode. Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity, obeying another person’s order when you would prefer not to, or yielding to another’s point of view.
AVOIDING- When avoiding, an individual does not immediately pursue his or her concerns or those of the other person. He or she does not address the conflict. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically side-stepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.
COLLABORATING- Collaborating is the opposite of avoiding. In this mode, an individual attempts to work with the other person to find a solution that fully satisfies the concerns of both. It involves exploring an issue to identify the underlying concerns of the two individuals and to find an alternative that meets both sets of concerns. Collaborating might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights, resolving some condition that would otherwise compete for resources, or confronting and trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.
COMPROMISING- The objective of compromising is to find an expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. Compromising falls on a middle ground between competing and accommodating, giving up more than competing, but less than accommodating. Similarly, it addresses an issue more directly than avoiding, but doesn’t explore it in as much depth as collaborating. Compromising might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground position.
Areas of Practice
ENVIRONMENTAL FAMILY DISPUTES
NEIGHBOR TO NEIGHBOR
CONSUMER / MERCHANT
DISCRIMINATION SCHOOL RELATED
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