Communication's Effect on Effective Conflict Management

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Communication’s Effect on Effective Conflict Management

Communication & Conflict

August 16, 2010

The process of effective conflict management is very complex. There are many elements that one must master in order to become effective at conflict resolution. In life, we will be faced with a myriad of people, all with different views and opinions; so naturally, we will be faced with conflict at some point in our lives. Once conflict is initiated (intentionally or not), it is important to keep a cool head and remember a few steps.

According to our textbook, there are 5 stages for successful conflict resolution which are prelude to conflict, the triggering event, the initiation phase, the differentiation phase, and the resolution phase (Cahn & Abigail, 2007). It is very important to identify and learn these stages so they can be present in our minds during times of conflict. The first stage is the prelude to conflict stage. This stage deals with the tension that arises right before a conflict becomes external. Communication plays a large role in this stage. If communication fails, conflict will ensue. Communication can fail if one or more involved parties communicate with a negative connotation, tone, or word choice. Other things such as sharing too much information or not enough can also have a detrimental effect on communication at this point. All of these factors, although generally considered small components of communication, can lay the foundation for conflict. During this stage, the correct thing to do is to stop talking for a brief moment and examine one’s own emotions in an attempt to control them. Oftentimes, our inability to control our emotions will cloud our judgment and will only help to escalate the issue. It is also important to deal with the preconceived notions that we may have as these too can have an impact on our judgment. According to the attribution theory, “people act as they do in conflict situation because of the conclusions they draw about each other” (Cahn & Abigail, 2007). In most cases, our body language will also betray us and will project the negative feelings we may be experiencing. Many times, we can misread a person and this may lead to what is known as false conflict. “Perception of conflict is a cognitive factor that encompasses an individual’s position toward conflict in general,”(Ben-Ari & Hirshberg, 2009). It is for this reason that it is very important to make a serious effort to eliminate prejudgments and any negative body language that goes with it. Taking these steps during phase 1 will prevent setting a tone of hostility and will eliminate any unnecessary conflict.

Phase 2 of the conflict refers to the actual event or events that trigger the conflict. This is a very important factor because by determining the trigger, we can focus on what the real conflict is and identify it. By focusing on the trigger, we can focus on the events and facts, rather than on the emotions behind the conflict. “When addressing a conflict it is important to stay professional at all times,” (“Diffusing conflict,” 2010). This will help keep the focus on the conflict itself and should help keep communication from becoming hostile. It is also important to isolate and identify the true conflict as oftentimes, resulting emotions will cloud our better judgment. Once we have a better assessment of what the true conflict is, we can move to the next phase of the process.

The next phase is known as the initiation phase. During the initiation phase, it is important to state the problem. Ideally, this process should foster communication. In order to move forward towards a successful resolution, it is important that all sides get to state their side of the conflict. Communication at this point becomes critical to solving the problem. It is also important to keep an open mind and listen to everything that is said. In many cases, others may have been offended by something we do or say without us...
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