Skills for Managing Conflict

IDevice Icon Key Skills

Various skills are utilized in managing conflict:

  1. Open Communication Lines (attending skills, minimal encouragers, feedback, reflecting and active listening)
  2. Establish Ground Rules, guidelines for productive discussion, i.e., no interruptions, everyone has chance, one at a time.
  3. Confront the Current Issues--not people, not the past
  4. Use Listening Skills for both feelings and content; listen to understand, paraphrase to check understanding
  5. Keep Emotions in Check and be aware of the emotions of others
  6. Consider the Physical Arrangements, space, location, seating, comfort, barriers
  7. Use Humor to relieve tension

IDevice Icon Words to the Wise
We often figure that other people see the world in the same way we do and overestimate the degree to which they understand our approach and actions. Rather than making assumptions, ask for clarification; even ask about their intention to harm you ('Did you realize when you did that, it affected me in this way?' They might not be aware of it).

Be willing to take the first step in opening up such conversation. Also, when we think we'll be rejected, we tend not to smile, we make less eye contact and stand farther away. The other person may perceive these gestures as a brush-off. Go out of your way to say hello. Or smile or make eye contact. We have to take a deep breath and try to recognize that we all feel anxiety. Go in and learn.

Linda Tropp, Ph.D., director of the psychology of peace and violence concentration at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst


IDevice Icon Another Suggestion
"I find it helps to compliment a person right away ('I really appreciate your passion for this...'). Next, to show that you're listening, occasionally pause and rephrase the other person's point ('It sounds like this is what you're saying'). That tones him down.
Once he's cooled, make your point ('Here's my perspective; do you see where I'm at on this?'). Also, there's generally a grain of truth to any criticism -- nod to that, and you've both reduced its power and built some goodwill. People think of conflict resolution as just finding the right compromise; but from our work, we know you can make it a win-win situation."

Linda Woolf, Ph.D, past president of the American Psychological Association's peace psychology division


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