Resolve Conflicts Smartly

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

Conflicts, as we all know, are part and parcel of life and career. They may sometimes be resolved by a long shot. Sometimes not. Difficult or fluid conflicts often lead to contentious situations. Knowing the basics of effective conflict management is one good way of dealing with conflicts that cannot be resolved quickly, or easily. This bids fair to a well-defined, also adjustable, conflict prevention and management plan to be put in place before conflicts hit the roof. This will help us to preserve our work, also professional, and personal relationships.

Conflicts that are resolved amicably have a positive effect on our work, family, health and well-being.

Interpersonal conflicts, for instance, when not managed appropriately, or assertively, can lead to a splurge in eating, abuse of alcohol and/or smoking. It has also been found that such unresolved conflicts can lead to the return of a latent original problem. One ‘quiescent’ example is — getting into the smoking habit with a vengeance after having kicked the ‘nicotine allure’ in the past.

This is reason enough why knowing the essentials of effective conflict management is, yet again, fundamental for our emotional, mental and also physical well-being.

Well, it does not matter whether you are at home, office, or elsewhere. It would do you a world of good if you follow a handful of common processes and put them to work for you and others. This will, in a majority of cases, reduce the risk of differences getting the better of your and others’ emotions, or logic.

There are a host of techniques for dealing usefully with conflicts as there are conflicts. They have all produced tangible results in as diverse areas as the corporate world, workplace and facilities management, business, relationships, marital counselling, politics, sports, and healthcare, or think of what you may. The best part is — these skills can be learned and with practice they have been known to help people move ahead, besides allowing either party enough reason to smile.

Perspective is vital. It is obvious that ‘what’ you think of a situation will affect ‘how’ you feel. Besides, it is not only external circumstances that reveal whether you are happy in life, career, or not, but also how you read the given, or not given, situation. It is important for you to, therefore, bear in mind what your perspective of the situation is. This will have a say on how, or what, you feel about it. In other words, it will help you respond to a situation effectively. For example, you need to separate a situation you think amounts to ‘personal’ vendetta — something that may have happened for no real reason, including your, or someone else’s inadvertent gaffe.

Invest in healthy relationships. It goes without saying that our interactions depend on the framework of a relationship model. When relationships are strong and healthy, it is likely that most people, even in the face of conflict, underplay a tricky situation. This will avoid a showdown, as it were, in most instances and deflect conflicts from taking an ugly turn. In other words, investing in healthy relationships is like investing money in a reputed bank. Also, the stronger the existing relationship, the better it is to put down disagreements without causing ripple effects on either side of the ‘fence,’ if not divide.

Scan problem areas. All of us have our idiosyncrasies, or peculiarities — this is enough reason for us to blow the roof. Once this happens, feelings of anger, unfairness, injury, insult, or hurt may run wild. If one becomes familiar with one’s problem area as far as anger, or resentment, is concerned, it will allow one to be aware of what may actually help them to dealing with differences positively. This isn’t, of course, easy, but it is an achievable prospect. All you need to do is find a different perspective to and of yourself. In other words, you need to know how to keep on ‘hold’ your physiological response to one’s anger, or angst.

This isn’t all — you need to deal effectively with resentment by way of reflection, not reaction. You need to act; not react. Put simply, this means you need to think through a situation. Not go for someone’s jugular, including your own. When you do this, with perseverance, you will be able to balance your emotions — simply, sensibly, and without jargon.

It takes ‘seven’ to ‘tango’ — 

  1. Don’t be in a hurry to remedy a problem, when you are the affected party, or ‘opponent,’ or asked to tackle a conflicting situation, or when invited to don the role of an umpire
  2. Think of problem solving as a course of action at a further stage in the process before doing anything
  3. Try to bring to a halt the most likely, or existing, tensions between you and your antagonist. Or, two parties — more so, if you are playing the role of a referee. Try to promote understanding between them
  4. Remember that understanding is fuelled by empathy
  5. Remember: when a person understands the other person’s views and does so with respect, it immediately leads to a resolution of conflict
  6. Remember — you need to be a good listener, more than a speaker
  7. Listening will give the right signal — you, your ‘aggressor,’ and the parties concerned, will all feel that they are being heard.

Be impersonal. This is easier said than done. However, you’d still give it your best shot. Remember, when you speak about the other party, or person, in any conflicting ‘story,’ avoid making personal statements, or assessments about either. Convey what you feel without drama. Example: “We need to figure out something that fits the bill.”

United stands best. ‘United’ often works for conflicts resulting in a domestic situation, all right — which is just the reverse of the previous illustration. What you need to do and say may be summed up, thus: “Let us put our minds together and see what best we can do together.”

Avoid cynicism. Never indulge in cynicism. It won’t last, or take you far. It will actually damage a given situation and lead to a point of no return. Use your language as a modifying tool, not as a handgun. 

Blow the ‘take a break’ whistle. If you find the situation going out of control, just allow yourself, your opposite number, or the parties to disperse — to cool down tempers. Wait for a while and ask them to return and talk it out. This [re]engaging course of action will help to promote a ‘re-focused’ view on thoughts and provide a fresh perspective on the issue to be discussed by the parties concerned.

Brainstorm to solve problems. Once you, or the two, or more, parties, have been heard, you may, as an individual, or arbiter, think of brainstorming. Brainstorming should take into account all possible solutions — even if they sound impractical. The idea is — you’d get as many solution possibilities as you can. They will all count one way, or the other. It may also be useful to remember that it is not uncommon for individuals, also arbiters, to stumble upon a solution, or set of solutions, that neither had thought of earlier. So, you need to be observant, receptive, and also accepting.

Lastly, if nothing works, just allow, or encourage, either party to agree to disagree, or vice versa. Let the dust settle down s-l-o-w-l-y. Everything will fall into place — sooner than you’d, perhaps, envisaged.

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.

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