Resolution of Conflict

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Conflict is a situation between at least two interdependent parties that is characterized by perceived differences and that the parties evaluate as negative. This often results in negative emotional states and behaviours intended to prevail. Conflict is an inevitable and all-pervasive element in our society and in the world. Although conflicts may end up in destruction and even death, conflicts may also result in increased effectiveness, enhanced relationships, and further goal attainment. Indeed, in human terms conflict is one of the “engines of evolution” that allows us to learn, progress, and grow. Our goal is not to attempt to do away with conflict but rather to skilfully manage conflict to further its constructive potential. In this document we will explore definitions and views of conflict and conflict resolution. We will specifically present a generic working model for the effective handling of disputes and differences. Also include are specific strategies to enhance your effectiveness in dealing with conflicts. Strategies that will enable you to resolve conflicts yourself and to assist people in attaining their outcomes without damaging relationships. The focus of this document is on conflict resolution. A communication process for managing a conflict and negotiating a solution. Managing the conflict involves defusing any strongemotion involved in the conflict and enabling the disputing parties to understand their differences and similarities. Negotiation involves enabling the parties in the conflict to achieve an outcome with respect to their differences.

History of Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution as a concept has been promoted over the years by members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and others. When "Conflict Resolution" was introduced at the University of London in 1965 as an extension of the conventional strategic, power politics, International Relations course, it was given a specific meaning. This new section dwelt on the possibilities of analytical problem solving in inter-state relationships rather than dealing with potential military conflict situations by balance of power and alliance means. Why had Germany and Japan gone to war against Britain? Why was a revolt in Vietnam not deterred by the threat of force from the leading world power of the time and from the United Nations? If deterrence did not deter, what were the options? After some years of debate and discussion Conflict Resolution became an alternative to the traditional Morgenthau (1948) power politics approach to International Relations. This problem-solving approach, with its analytical focus on human motivations and relationships, was soon seen to apply to all social and political levels, thus offering an alternative to the power-based law-and-order approach to the problems of societies. A body of theory and a Conflict Resolution literature quickly evolved. Conflict Analysis and Resolution emerged as a separate social science area of study. To cope with its comprehensive, a-disciplinary approach, frequently independent Institutes and Centres were established within universities, rather than separate departments or sections within departments. By reason of its comprehensive nature, Conflict Resolution is now emerging as a political philosophy, with widespread social and political implications.

What is Conflict?

A conflict situation exists when there are: at least two parties involved who are interdependent, who are experiencing strong emotions, who seemingly hold incompatible outcomes or beliefs, and at least one of the parties recognize the incompatibility and perceives this to be problematic. In conflict parties perceivethemselves to have incompatible outcomes.

The word outcome in this context refers to what an individual want: their preferred solution or position. Underlying these positions are interests, the reasons why an individual wants to achieve a specific outcome in the first place. Interests are an individual’s perceptions and feelings about what is desirable or useful. Interests are central to an individual’s behaviour and are rooted in human needs and beliefs.

Resolving or managing the problem

Conflict management is the practice of being able to identify and handle conflicts sensibly, fairly, and efficiently. Since conflicts in a business are a natural part of the workplace, it is important that there are people who understand conflicts and know how to resolve them. This is important in today's market more than ever. Everyone is striving to show how valuable they are to the company they work for and at times, this can lead to disputes with other members of the team.

Conflict Management Styles

Conflicts happen. How an employee responds and resolves conflict will limit or enable that employee's success. Here are five conflict styles that a manager will follow according to Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann:

An accommodating manager is one who cooperates to a high degree. This may be at the manager's own expense and actually work against that manager's own goals, objectives, and desired outcomes. This approach is effective when the other person is the expert or has a better solution. Avoiding an issue is one way a manager might attempt to resolve conflict. This type of conflict style does not help the other staff members reach their goals and does not help the manager who is avoiding the issue and cannot assertively pursue his or her own goals. However, this works well when the issue is trivial or when the manager has no chance of winning.

Collaborating managers become partners or pair up with each other to achieve both of their goals in this style. This is how managers break free of the win-lose paradigm and seek the win-win. This can be effective for complex scenarios where managers need to find a novel solution. Competing: This is the win-lose approach. A manager is acting in a very assertive way to achieve his or her own goals without seeking to cooperate with other employees, and it may be at the expense of those other employees. This approach may be appropriate for emergencies when time is of the essence.

Compromising: This is the lose-lose scenario where neither person nor manager really achieves what they want. This requires a moderate level of assertiveness and cooperation. It may be appropriate for scenarios where you need a temporary solution or where both sides have equally important goals.

International conflict management

Special consideration should be paid to conflict management between two parties from distinct cultures. In addition to the everyday sources of conflict, "misunderstandings, and from this counterproductive, pseudo conflicts, arise when members of one culture are unable to understand culturally determined differences in communication practices, traditions, and thought processing". Indeed, this has already been observed in the business research literature.

Renner (2007) recounted several episodes where managers from developed countries moved to less developed countries to resolve conflicts within the company and met with little success due to their failure to adapt to the conflict management styles of the local culture. As an example, in Kozan's study noted above, he noted that Asian cultures are far more likely to use a harmony model of conflict management. If a party operating from a harmony model comes in conflict with a party using a more confrontational model, misunderstandings above and beyond those generated by the conflict itself will arise.

International conflict management, and the cultural issues associated with it, is one of the primary areas of research in the field at the time, as existing research is insufficient to deal with the ever-increasing contact occurring between international entities.


Conflict is characterized by perceived differences and negative emotional states. The issues in conflict can be thought of as tangible and intangible, as needs or beliefs. Conflict often results in destructive ends but it does not have to. Collaboration and compromise are usually available as alternatives in a conflict situation. Pursuing these ends in conflict is called conflict resolution. To manage conflict successfully, we propose that the negative emotions that accompany conflict be managed by the strategic use of reflective listening. The differences in needs that underlie the conflict can best be dealt with by interest-based negotiation. Solutions are found when conflicting parties surface the interest behind their positions. The problem-solving process is used to allow the free creation of ideas that will best meet the needs to thetwo parties.