The way in which individuals behave in conflict leads to peaceful resolution of disputes. It is important to distinguish a peaceful resolution and a perfect or complete resolution. The latter represents a situation that all parties in the conflict get what they want without any compromise. Not only that it seldom happens in reality, many of a time the external conflict is a manifestation of a fragile relationship, as explained in the Deutsch Model of conflict (Condliffe, 2008, p.6). The focus of the resolution may need to shift from the conflict to the relationship, if a long-term resolution is to be sought. A peaceful resolution may not be the most ideal for each party of the conflict as far as the want is concerned. However, it represents an outcome that puts the needs and interest of both sides before the wants of each individual. It ensures the needs and interest of each party is understood and considered. It emphasizes collaboration, trust and respect, rather than competition. When a conflict occurs, people will react to the conflict in different approaches and behaviour because of various factors, such as personality, social status, educational background, cultural background, gender, health, emotional status, values, mood, etc. This essay looks into the common approaches to conflict, either productive or unproductive, the major barriers of managing conflict and some suggestions to overcome them.
Out of the eleven approaches suggested by Eunson, the common approaches include avoidance or inaction, withdrawal, domination, capitulation and negotiation (Eunson, 2007, pp.6-7). There are also other common approaches, such as win-win or collaboration, relationship building, shift of focus and reflective dialogue.
Common Unproductive Approaches and their barriers
1. Avoidance or inaction
This approach is to take no action and wait for the conflict to disappear on its own. This can be effective if the conflict is only temporary or circumstantial. The challenge is that the person may need to put up with potential complaints, accusation or even insults. Politicians frequently use this approach and wait until the media lost interest in the story, and people seem to forget and move on with their lives. However, this approach has an accumulative effect on the damages, such as loss of respect and trust. When similar conflicts happen again, people will remember and have all the memories of the unresolved conflicts come back. This approach is like paying by credit card, the card user is not using cash to pay but his credit, and one day he will pay the full amount plus interest. 2. Withdrawal
This approach is to withdraw oneself and avoid confronting in the conflict, resulting in the flight reaction. This approach may be effective as an initial reaction to provide room and time to channel the emotions, to evaluate the situation and to identify the need. However, withdrawal alone will not resolve a conflict. This approach is especially popular in conflicts between parties of opposite values, beliefs or personality. For example, for dominant and timid personality, the timid personality tends to back off from confrontation and the dominant personality will take advantage of this to satisfy his or her own interest. It is against the timid personality to fight, so withdrawal seems to be the next logical choice. Using Eunson’s example about a spouse walking out of the house in a huff (Eunson, 2007, p.6), not only the conflict remains unresolved, the act of walking out also reinforces a false impression of strong and weak, superior and inferior, winner and loser. Many cases of domestic violence are probably the results of long-term withdrawal from conflicts, resulting in a build-up of an infinite superiority. 3. Capitulation
This approach is not fight nor flight, but surrender. People adopting this approach do not want to fight, probably due to unequal power, status or...