“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”
These are the wise words of Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America during the 1980’s.
Conflict is a natural part of life. History has shown us that.
It’s practically impossible to completely avoid conflict – we can endeavour to eliminate as much conflict as possible – but the real long lasting solution is to learn how to properly deal with it.
More often than not, when faced with conflict the tendency is to run away and hide from the problem, thus shutting the door on opportunity… the opportunity to resolve not only the conflict but to re-establish relationships with deeper and solid understandings, thus creating better group cohesion and improved self-knowledge.
There are several established conflict resolution methods, like the Conflict Layer Model, the IBR (Interest Based Relational Approach) model, and the Bell and Hart’s Eight Causes of Conflict.
I encourage you to study all of them and take from them whatever you can knowing that some methods will work better in certain circumstances than others.
Let’s briefly touch the 8 “Causes of Conflict” and then talk about the 6 steps outlined in the IBR method.
There are many reasons conflicts exist, and they have been categorized as being in 8 general areas of interest
- conflicts over resources
- conflicts over styles and practices
- conflicts in relation to goals
- conflicts based on internal and external pressures
- conflicts due to perceptions, be they individual or collective
- roles and positions
- and finally conflicts based on values
Can you recognise some of those causes as the root of a conflict that you are aware of or is in your life right now?
If you can recognise the root cause of a conflict it can help you devise effective conflict resolution strategies, and create a workplace or environment that’s not disrupted by tension and disharmony.
OK, so let’s get down to something practical, something we can take away and use today. We are gonna have a deeper look into how the IBR method works.
The IBR method outlines 6 steps – alongside following these steps, participants involved in this conflict resolution method should implement the following personal skills to increase its effectiveness:
– listen actively and empathetically,
– have a good understanding of body language – be aware if others are nervous, angry, fearful etc.
– be emotionally intelligent
– and understand how to control the tendency to succumb to anger.
Here are the 6 steps of IBR method:
Make sure that good relationships are a priority.
Treat the other person with respect. Follow etiquette. Do your best to be courteous and polite, and to discuss matters constructively. It is all about relationships.
Separate people from problems.
Focus on the “problem” and not the “person”
Recognize that, in many cases, the other person is not “being difficult” – real and valid differences can lie behind conflicting positions. By separating the problem from the person, you can discuss issues without damaging relationships.
Listen carefully to different interests.
You’ll get a better understanding of why people have adopted their position if you try to understand their point of view. Listen objectively.
Listen first, talk second.
There is a reason we have two ears and only one mouth!
Listen with empathy, and try to see the conflict from each participant’s point of view before defending your own position.
Explain issues clearly and concisely.
Encourage people to use “I” rather than “you” statements, so that no one feels attacked.
Encourage everyone to be clear about their feelings.
Remain flexible and adaptable.
Once you’ve listened to everyone’s needs and concerns, outline the behaviors and actions that you will or won’t tolerate, and gain the opposing parties’ agreement to change.
Interestingly when we listen like this sometimes we hear something that will change our original conception of the problem mind.
Set out the “facts.”
You’ll need to agree with the problem that you are trying to solve before you can find a mutually acceptable solution, and you should agree with the facts that are relevant to the situation.
Decide on the visible facts that might impact your decision, together – holistically.
Explore options together.
By this stage, you may have resolved the conflict. Each side will likely understand the other’s position better, and the most appropriate solution might be obvious.
Be open to the idea that a third position may exist, and that you might reach it jointly.
Those are the 6 steps – By following these steps you can become an effective catalyst between conflicting parties.
Remember the steps – you can often prevent heated discussions from turning to full blown conflict by following these guidelines, and they can help you avoid the antagonism and dislike that can cause conflicts to spiral out of control.
It also helps to remember the general rule – every conflict can be resolved; the only limits are the imagination of parties involved and the time available for negotiation.
Read more about conflict resolution and the IBR approach, then when you feel comfortable practice what you have learnt by trying to defuse a relatively mild conflict at first
– Set up a meeting between the conflicting parties to discuss the issue.
– Let them know that you are there to work together to find a solution, and that they need to focus on the problem, not the person.
– Ask them to listen carefully to one another’s point of view, and to use active listening skills, so that everyone feels heard.
– Be clear about the facts and then work together to agree on a resolution.
During this process of negotiation you can use one of the following procedures to help:
- Zoltan Hosszu, Joyful Leadership Manual
- Fisher, R., Patton, B., Ury, W. (2011). Getting to yes: Negotiating
agreement without giving in. New York, NY, US: Penguin Books.