Conflict is Such a Big Word

Recently I have been studying the best way to deal with conflict.  Kenneth W. Thomas addresses four of the basic types of conflict in his book Toward Multi-Dimensional Values in Teaching: The Example of Conflict Behaviors.

  • Approach—Approach Conflicts = Choosing between two desirable outcomes
  • Avoidance—Approach Conflicts = Choosing between two negative alternatives
  • Approach—Avoidance Conflicts = Choosing between one option that contains both positive and negative aspects or not doing it at all
  • Double Approach—Avoidance Conflicts = Choosing between options that both hold good and bad

Each of these gets progressively more complicated to resolve.  However, if conflict is not addressed early on, it can escalate to an unmanageable state rapidly.  When dealing with this tension, there are many options, but here are few coping methods that are easily definable.

  • Competition
  • Collaboration
  • Compromise
  • Avoidance
  • Accommodation

Each has its strengths and weaknesses based on what kind of value is placed on the relationship with an individual or a group.  Other factors that complicate these methods are time, resources, importance, information available, and energy.  A good conflict manager will assess each of these components to determine the best resolution.  These solutions to conflict can be found in Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Public Conflict Resolution, by the The Southern Rural Development Center.

I once heard it said, “One hundred percent of failed relationships are a result of poor communication.”  I think this is true.  We encounter conflict everyday, at work, home, church, school, and virtually every other venue you can conceive.  Entirely avoiding the conflict is usually uncontrollable, but how we deal with it can be controlled.  If we can recognize why something is happening, it greatly increases our chances of resolving it.