print header
Complex Thoughts

Conflict Resolution

The ability to resolve conflict is one of the most important skills a leader can possess. Conflicts arise in everyday situations between leaders and members over both organizational and personal issues.

STYLES OF CONFLICT MANAGEMENT 

             

Competing

Individual pursues his/her interests at another’s expense. This is a power-oriented mode which could mean standing up for your rights, defending a position, or simply trying to win.

  • Positives: Quick decision or action needed, enforcing unpopular rules, protection against aggression, survival.

  • Negatives: Resource wasting, power struggle, generates hostility and other negative feelings that go underground.

Accommodating

Individual neglects his/her own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person. Might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, obeying orders, yielding to anther person’s point of view.

  • Positives: Issue is more important to the other person, when harmony is especially important, building up social credits for later more important issues.

  • Negatives: Your needs are not met, minimizes your respect, influence and status, could build anger.

Avoiding

Individual does not immediately pursue his/her own concerns or those of the other person. In other words, does not address the conflict. Might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping the issue, postponing the issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.

  • Positives: Issue is trivial, cool down, need for more data, potential damage outweighs potential of resolution.

  • Negatives: Your input is not available, your needs are not met, may require more energy to avoid than to deal with conflict in another way.

Compromising

Individual seeks to find expedient, mutually acceptable solution which somewhat satisfies both parties’ needs. It might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground.

  • Positives: Temporary settlement to complex issues, both parties are partially satisfied, expedient outcomes under time pressure.

  • Negatives: Takes time and energy, neither party is fully satisfied, less commitment to implementation of decision.

Collaborating

Individual attempts to work with the other person to find some solution which fully satisfies the concerns of both parties.

  • Positives: Uses resources of both parties, builds ownership and commitment, high quality outcome.

  • Negatives: Takes time and energy, trust and openness may be taken advantage of, requires high level of skills, might not be possible.

Collaboration is the style most recommended for student organizations because it allows both parties to be fully satisfied, it allows for creativity in developing resolution, and it gives participants a sense of accomplishment that they have together resolved the issue without losing anything.

HOW TO USE THE COLLABORATING APPROACH TO
DEAL WITH CONFLICT IN STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS
          
  1. Determine the nature of the conflict. Is it a philosophical issue (drinking at socials) or a difference of expectations (all members of the group should determine every decision that the group makes)?

  2. State the real effect the conflict has on you. (If all members get to vote on everything, it will take us a long time to make decisions and some things may not get done since we only meet twice a month.)

  3. Listen carefully to the other person. What is the real effect on them? What do they see as the conflict?

  4. Initiate the problem-solving process:
    • Clarify the issue. What is the real problem/issue at hand?
    • Discuss each person’s wants and needs.
    • Generate a list of all possible solutions. Be creative.
    • Decide together on the solution most acceptable to both parties.
    • Discuss how solution will be implemented.
    • Develop process to evaluate solution after specified time.
    • Discuss how discrepancies/problems with solution will be handled.


TECHNIQUES FOR DEALING WITH UPSET PEOPLE

      
  1. People in a state of high emotion cannot participate in conflict resolution until their feelings have been acknowledged.

  2. To calm upset people…
    • Speak softly, even though they are yelling. Soon they will quiet down.
    • Let them tell you why they are angry. Don’t interrupt.
    • Use active listening techniques — clarify, paraphrase, summarize, and validate.
    • Use positive body language — lean toward them slightly, sit in an open position (don’t fold or cross arms), look them in the eye (if White European).
    • Establish yourself as an advocate and not an adversary. Use phrases like: “I want to understand…” “I can see that this is very frustrating…”
    • Offer immediate assistance if possible, even if it is something very small.
    • Thank them for bringing it to your attention.
    • Give them a time line — when you’ll get back to them or when a decision will be made or action taken.

ADAPTED FROM A UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN STUDENT ORGANIZATION DEVELOPMENT CENTER PUBLICATION

Excellence. Our Measure. Our Motto. Our Goal.