Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.
interpersonal conflict in organizations is among the most
critical and important skills that employees on all levels of the
insecurity, fueled by fears of downsizing, cancelled business in
light of 9/11, the economy, mergers and an unknown organizational
future, produces fertile ground for the development of conflict.
Moreover, advances in technology , which often are viewed as
threatening, magnify the potential for anger and frustration in the
or insensitively managed conflict negatively impacts
productivity and morale. Ultimately, the bottom line is affected. On
the other hand, allowing conflict to surface and skillfully resolving it
can be a platform for enhancing employee trust, team building and
good news is that managers, trainers and
directors can easily learn conflict resolution strategies, put them into
practice, and teach them to their employees.
following three-step program for assessing and implementing a
conflict resolution program is a proven, successful plan of attack:
1. EVALUATING CONFLICT
Several self-assessment questionnaires
have been developed over
the years giving people insight into how they react in typical conflict
situations. The insight derived from scoring these questionnaires
provides an understanding of what "buttons"
get pushed when a
person is provoked.
2. IDENTIFYING CONFLICT
People resort to behavioral habits when
experiencing conflict with
others. These reactions include:
behaviors, such as: confronting, dominating,
defending, using sarcasm, hostile humor, repressing emotions,
insisting on being right, stonewalling, and blaming;
behaviors, such as: avoiding,
cooling off, apologizing,
and giving in or backing off to avoid confrontation;
behaviors, such as: active
disarming, inquiring, using "I feel" statements, and recognizing
your internal dialogue impacts your emotional reactions.
goal is to eliminate negative and neutral behaviors and practice
positive confrontation reduction skills
until they become new habits.
On the average, these skills can be
in only 21 days of
3. LEARNING POWERFUL
CONFRONTATION REDUCTION SKILLS
The key to all interpersonal communications is
genuine listening, as opposed
to defensive listening, where you plan
your retort while the other person is
In order to begin to really listen, paraphrase
what the other person
says in your own words, without judging, agreeing or disagreeing.
Listen to and reflect the content, needs
and feelings of the other
ask for feedback to determine whether you interpreted
correctly. If you have not, ask
for clarification. Continue
until you are sure that you have heard what the other person is
saying and how he or she really feels emotionally.
you are certain that you understand the message and feelings
expressed by the other person, respond. The other person then
listens and paraphrases for you. This
process continues until you have both clarified your positions and are
certain that the other
really heard you and understands.
This involves putting yourself in the other
person's shoes and trying to see the world through his or her eyes,
taking into account cultural, racial, gender and experiential
The fastest way to defuse an argument is to find
some truth in what the other person is saying, even if you do not
agree with the basic criticism or complaint.
For example, saying "I
can understand how you'd feel angry with me since you believed that
I started the rumor" acknowledges and validates the angry person's
feelings without actually agreeing with what was said.
the door to clarification, feedback and reconciliation.
By asking for clarification of ideas, needs and
feelings you signal a feeling of respect and can then work toward
mutual understanding and compromise.
Feel" Statements. This
is a primary skill in interpersonal
yourself with such statements as, "I
feel angry because you seem to be avoiding me" is much more
productive than the accusatory, "you
made me angry and it's your
fault that I've had a bad day at work today."
In the first scenario, you
take responsibility for your own feelings and share them; in the
second, you escalate the confrontation by blaming and putting the
person on the defensive.
addition, you tell the other person specifically what you need that
will make you feel good or what can be done to improve the
relationship and avoid further misunderstandings and confrontations.
Dialogue. The key to
analyzing your vulnerability to
being provoked into confrontations is to understand how your
automatic thoughts, including your assumptions and conclusions,
cause every emotional reaction.
of these distortions are: "I should
have gone to work
despite being ill" ( using should, must, and have to in judging your
actions); "My boss doesn't care about me...only about my
productivity" (reading your boss' mind about what he must be
thinking and feeling); "They'll
probably eliminate my job soon"
(catastrophising or fortune telling about what negative
things will happen to you in the future);
and "I'm stupid for allowing
this to happen to me" (negatively labeling yourself instead of
your behavior as unfortunate or unproductive).
you learn about the distortion habits in your automatic thinking,
you can learn how to challenge them and develop more rational,
alternative thoughts. The end
result is actually dissolving negative
emotions and a healthy, more reasonable outlook on every situation
in which you find yourself.
conflict is healthy when it brings a rich sharing of
ideas, mutual respect and an understanding and appreciation of
diverse opinions, needs, and values. Teaching your employees to
understand how they traditionally react in conflict situations and how
to use confrontation reduction skills leads to greater trust, less stress,
more creativity, and can ignite the team. The ultimate benefits are
enhanced quantity and quality of products and services!
Dr. Jack Singer is a professional speaker, author and Consulting
Psychologist in Laguna Niguel, California.
He is President of
Psychologically Speaking, and provides powerful and entertaining keynote
presentations, training programs, and re-TREATS for Fortune 1000
corporations and for associations across the U.S. You can reach him at
Email: [email protected]
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