Most conflict is caused by poor listening and as most people are not good listeners, they experience a great deal of unnecessary conflict. The simplest solution is to start employing active listening because the more you practice that most important communication skill, the better you will get at it. However there are other aspects of communication which if exercised appropriately can also help in dealing with conflict.
Conflict can take a variety of forms, from simple arguments between colleagues over minor issues to much more sophisticated discussions and negotiations regarding concerns over efficiency, productivity, even creativity. However, no matter what sort of conflict you are dealing with, without the required group knowledge and analytical skills to assess the specific problem and arrive at an objective, honest and respectful assessment, issues will certainly crop up. If they are not dealt with in a timely fashion, these conflicts can cause great harm within an organization, as they can harm how the team members relate and interact with one another.
Groups will often assume that a predominantly smoothing or avoiding approach will maintain the status quo or that a bargaining and forcing mode that could be very destructive to the cohesiveness of the group and the organization, will resolve the issue. Both modes, when consistently applied in all circumstances, will likely erode the manager’s ability to lead and direct their team in an effective, non-combative manner.
If a team leader observes that some of the team members lack the requisite skills and knowledge to effectively deal with conflict within the group, they must take the necessary action to ensure that this aptitude is acquired. If they are vigilant and helpful to those individuals, they can transform potentially dangerous situations into ones that enhance their ability to lead and their team to achieve high performance.
Group conflict resolution can be very difficult when individual members have different and/or conflicting goals and needs. Therefore the most critical aspect of a group’s problem solving ability is its capacity to handle those internal conflicting situations.
Team leaders must ensure that their team develop positive and healthy norms. When this is accomplished and an appropriate forum for conflict resolution is created those issues will be sure to be dealt with in a consistent and fair manner. Without such resolution processes and procedures in place, serious and damaging group controversy will prove to be divisive and can then result in ineffective and potentially very harmful outcomes.
Conflict is something most people would rather avoid nonetheless, a team can learn to embrace it in healthy ways. Once that happens, they often notice how much more productive and healthy their interactions are.
The best ways to deal effectively with conflict are to be supportive, encouraging, open minded, empathetic, willing to compromise, learn and settle for at least some of what you desire. Again, the real key is to employ active listening during the exchanges so that you can truly understand the other person’s take on the situation and see where your common ground is, where you may need to compromise, when to agree to disagree, and finally how you might even learn a different perspective and possibly decide you are not as far apart as originally suspected.
Not all conflict is a bad thing… in fact sometimes differing opinions can open up new and innovative ways to resolve issues, solve problems and view situations resulting in a better appreciation for another’s point of view or expertise. This can actually build trust, respect and rapport within the team and ultimately improve performance outcomes.