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Conflict - What Makes or Breaks Relationship

Conflict is a natural part of everyday life. It assists in developing both personal, and professional relationships where clashes of interests related to needs, values, opinions, behaviours, and activities occur. While conflicts occur in all levels of life in society and can be destructive, with applied knowledge conflicts can result in positive outcomes. Successful resolution of conflicts can result in the establishment of personal, and professional identities, which demonstrate the importance of functional relationships through building and sustaining relationship by way of boundary maintenance. Successful resolution of conflict also leads to the creation of coalitions, which further maintains group cohesion, and contributes to the development of social norms.

Our first defence against managing a less than suitable skill set for conflict resolution in relationship begins with developing self awareness of our own belief system about the nature of conflict, as well as developing courage to self-reflect on our own skill set about the range of strategies we use to employ and manage conflicts. First we need to understand that conflict is forever present, and that avoiding it is as undesirable as it is unresolvable.

There are many definitions, and explanations of conflict, however, initial reactions to conflict are purely emotional, and are commonly reflective of earlier experiences of conflict that originate in early childhood when we are vulnerable, and at the mercy of others more powerful than ourselves. Although emotional reactions may not always result in positive outcomes, positive reactions are considered to be a more "cognitive approach" that people develop in later years that they use as a resource that can be empowering. The benefits of understanding both our emotional reactions, and our cognitive resources results in a more impactful ability to manage relationships.

Interpersonal skills necessary for responding to conflict begins with the ability to understand the source of the conflict. The key here is the fact that sources of conflict arise for different reasons, some of these may be emotional issues (feeling mistrust, unsafe, loss of respect, and anger), communication problems including not listening, lack of empathic listening, misinterpretation, rigid or ambiguous thinking, and role conflicts. Other sources of conflict can be political such as, conflicting goals, policies, allocation of resources, interpersonal dynamics, and power relationships.

Staying in control in a conflict means having the ability to ensure that the discussion of the conflict does not point blame at any one person, or group. The key here is staying focused on the resolution of the problem, not changing the person, or people involved. Remaining calm, focussed, and emotionally neutral is as important in a professional environment, as it is in a personal relationship. Remaining in emotional control when in crisis situations allows an individual to see an issue from different perspectives, and essentially assists with keeping other parties involved in the conflict calm. Communicating clearly is more effective when modelling problem solving solutions.

Conflict situations generally escalate when left unaddressed. Having the ability to remain emotionally neutral when tackling the conflict in a timely manner, with direct communication may assist with successful outcomes. Modelling assertive communication, with empathic listening assists with keeping people from responding defensively. Having the ability to identify both verbal, and non-verbal communication, along with the underlying emotions and feelings that set the conflict in motion assist with addressing the underlying conflict. Important skills here are active listening, along with emotional awareness.

Every conflict has a different perspective often influenced by culture, gender, and a range of other social considerations. It's important to validate differences between individuals, and groups but particularly understanding that conflict and difference are two separate issues. The best way to look at a conflict is from the perspective of the ideal outcome which is win-win. If both sides of the party can agree to a win-win outcome, then positive solutions may progress towards this agreed upon ideal. This perspective reduces tension, and points a conflict towards unified outcomes that build relationships, and unions. Seek Bindu - the point of creation.


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