Conflict Management

Conflict is a fact of life – for individuals, organisations, and societies. The costs of conflict are well-documented: high turnover, grievances and lawsuits, absenteeism, divorce, dysfunctional families, prejudice, fear. What many people don’t realise is that well-managed conflict can actually be a force for positive change.

Relationship Awareness tools help people to identify the source of their conflict and manage it more effectively – reducing preventable conflict and turning unpreventable conflict into opportunities for growth and the strengthening of relationships. These tools are unique among conflict management tools because they assess individuals’ motivational values. They get at the reasons behind conflict behaviours and show how those reasons connect to an individual’s motivational values when things are going well.

Conflict management can be part of other training or be conducted as a stand-alone event. The understanding and management of conflict impacts every area of work – project management, leadership, teams, communication, sales, budgeting, strategic planning, etc.

Relationship Awareness tools, such as the SDI, provide powerful learning experiences. Participants are challenged to choose behaviour more consciously; to reframe and avoid preventable conflict, to actively manage unpreventable conflict in such a way as to restore the self-worth of everyone involved and therefore produce higher quality work and create better working environments.

People who complete the SDI get a chance to talk about conflict without actually experiencing conflict. The SDI provides a common language that helps people identify what’s happening, and work toward a more positive outcome. The SDI identifies a conflict sequence for each person. A conflict sequence is a predictably sequential set of changes in conflict. Participants learn to recognise these changes in themselves and in others – then learn what to do about it. They learn that in Stage 1 conflict the focus is on Themselves, the Problem, and the Other Person. Then, if the conflict is not resolved in Stage 1, they move to Stage 2 where the focus is on Themselves and the Problem-the other person has dropped out of the picture. Many participants report that their family or organisation is stuck and living in Stage 2. Participants also learn that Stage 3 conflict is the most damaging because both the Problem and the Other Person drop out of the picture. In Stage 3 the focus is on the Self only. By coming to understand their own conflict sequences better, people who have completed the SDI feel more empowered to manage the conflict in their lives.

“Dealing with Difficult People”

The SDI is built into several courses with titles similar to the one above. The title implies that it’s actually the other people who are difficult to deal with. The surprise for many participants in these courses is that it may actually be their own perception of the other person that makes them difficult to deal with. If we can learn to connect with others on a more positive level (realising that their purpose is to do something that makes them feel good about themselves, not necessarily to hurt others) we can actually understand them better and avoid preventable conflict. These courses also help people to recognise conflict sequences in others and apply strategies to get conflict resolved at an early stage in a productive way.

Conflict in Teams

Many facilitators use the SDI and companion tools to identify and resolve conflict within teams or organisations. The SDI provides the framework and structured exercises such as “The Living Triangle” provide participants with an opportunity to discuss the conflict objectively and design a plan to resolve it. Groups can be encouraged to draft a “Conflict Charter” to identify the norms they would like to implement during conflict situations. When teams have an agreement of this nature, they can refer to the agreement to get conflicted members to address the issue and resolve it, rather than letting it get worse.

The Feedback Edition of the SDI and the Feedback Portraits give conflicted team members an idea of how they are perceived by others and a chance to discuss the conflict with other team members in a non-threatening way.

Sometimes conflict in teams comes from differences in expectations – that’s where the Expectations Edition of the SDI comes in. It gets everyone’s expectations out in the open and provides an opportunity to discuss and come to some agreement about what is expected. Once expectations are clear, the road to high performance is more obvious.

Understanding conflict is an integral part of Relationship Awareness theory. As such, the conflict management aspects of the tools arise in nearly every application of them. Please review the other applications in this section for more details about conflict management.