How can I avoid conflicts when working with groups?
It is better to accept that conflicts are always part of human interaction, than trying to avoid or to ignore them. Only then you will be able to handle conflicts.
It can be helpful to be aware of what it is that makes things get “hot” in any given situation. This is related directly to that situation, so those who are living and working in the context are often best placed to recognise these signs.
Why are conflicts not only inevitable, but also productive?
Sometimes conflict should not be avoided – conflict can be a sign that something needs to change. If we can respond to those signs before they become overwhelming, the changes can be beneficial for all parties.
In this instance it helps us a lot to consider that conflict can be creative and bring change, but that violence (often called conflict) is always damaging, and unproductive.
Is it: The more conflicts, the better?
To accept the existence of conflicts and to see their positive potentials does not mean to seek them everywhere. One has to take conflict as one means of human communication beside others.
If we are able to see conflict as occurring when two or more parties (individuals or groups) have, or think they have, incompatible goals (when goals are closely linked to interests and values), then conflict is not to be avoided or suppressed, but rather explored to see what the grievances are that are causing the conflict and if they can be addressed for mutual benefit.
How do I deal with conflicts in a team or a group?
First things first: Does everyone in the group agree that there is a conflict at all? Often it is not easy to find a common level to discuss the topic, and you may have to struggle with distractions and resistance against naming a conflict. Without coming to the point of naming a conflict, it will be hard to handle.
Second, is there enough trust inside the group to openly talk about disagreement? This may not be so easy to find out, but you’d better get a feel for it before putting something on the table.
It may be helpful to really seek to understand the opinions of all those concerned. To listen to understand the other, rather than to try to find arguments to win them over, or to undermine their views. Try to walk in the shoes of the other person, see what it is like to be them. Sometimes, we discover that we have somethings in common that can help us to build understanding.
How can I deal with conflicts when hierarchies are involved?
Hierarchies often imply that a person or a group has some kind of power over another individual or group. This may be political power, or economic power or power of position or authority.
Sometimes one has to listen to people individually, or to help people talk about their issues before raising them with those they perceive to have power over them. Often a third party can be helpful when people in conflict perceive the power to be unbalanced. The third party would then make every effort to ensure that all the voices are heard and responded to.
Sometimes even those who are perceived to have power may be aware that their power structures are not as effective as they used to be. The world is changing and there are few societies that are immune from this. This may cause the one who is accustomed to having power to be unsure of their future. They may feel threatened even though they are perceived to be powerful.
When working in an administration or similar structure, people often get confronted with lack of effective leadership and incomprehensible or contradictory decisions from above. There may be a greater picture that explains these decisions, but there may as well be pure incompetence, and how to decide what is what? On the other hand, leaders feel a lack of understanding and commitment for their decisions in their team. This causes frustration on both sides, and since the hierarchies are given, the conflict is “frozen”. In this case, it can be helpful to learn more about team building methods.
Is it better to keep conflicts inside the group?
In most instances, it is better that those affected by the conflict are included in finding ways to address the conflict. This helps to ensure that the outcome is supported by all those involved; it can undermine the efforts of those who do not want to find solutions, and it ensures that as many of the actors as possible have access to the same information at the same time. This may help towards preventing further misunderstanding and suspicion.
If you involve third parties in the conflict, you should make sure that this is not just strengthening struggling factions, but leads to a way of facilitating the conflict.
What can I do if a conflict cannot be resolved?
Sometimes parties find it possible to agree to disagree, especially if they have had an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the different viewpoints. It is not always necessary to agree. Different opinions can be helpful in keeping us aware that there are those who do not think like we do – their needs are also important; they have the right to think as they do. Mutual respect can enable us to manage differences.
What can I do if a conflict is realized by some, but not so by others? How do I find out what the source of a conflict is?
There are always multiple truths in a conflict. It may be helpful not to set out to find “the truth”. Those who are not feeling pain or discomfort caused by a conflict may be unaware that there is a problem. In this instance, it can often be helpful to bring the concerns of those who perceive a conflict into the open. To find ways that people can express their concerns and grievances without blaming the other.
In all aspects of conflict how we communicate our “truth” to others is very important. What do we want to say? How do we say it?