Presentation on theme: "Conflict Resolution for Life"— Presentation transcript:
1 Conflict Resolution for Life Rick OlshakAssociate Dean of Students, Illinois State UniversityChair, National Center for Higher Education Risk Management – Conflict Resolution (NCHERM-CR)Presented for the Central Illinois Volunteer AssociationAll Rights Reserved (2013)
2 Conflict Resolution for Life Presentation OutlineThe Universal nature of conflictThe structure of conflictHow we should view conflictHow we should manage conflictToday’s program is obviously designed for your professional development, but I find it impossible to separate out how we manage conflict in either setting. Yes, our work conflicts are often framed by issues of power and politics, but so too are many of our personal ones. As I speak today and you consider examples from your own life, think about whatever examples are most natural to you.
3 Conflict Resolution for Life The Universal nature of conflictWhat emotions do you experience in conflict situations at work? At home?So on the subject of emotions, I am now going to ask you to write down a few of the emotions you experience when you are in the midst of a conflict. What are the feelings or emotions that immediately occur to you? Take a few seconds to write down a few responses.
4 Conflict Resolution for Life The Universal nature of conflictWhat feelings/emotions do you experience in conflict situations at work? At home?Most people experience:Anger Fear FrustrationAnxiety Hurt HelplessnessConfusion Loss ExcitementThis exercise is done around the world with groups of all walks of life, ranging from ages 8 to 80, and the responses are amazingly consistent across societies, cultures, ethnicities, ages, educational levels, incomes, and sexes.When asked how people feel in conflict settings, they most often report feeling…The truth is… most of us are not socialized to have a healthy view of conflict, and this impacts how we manage conflict, as well as the health and quality of our relationships.
5 Conflict Resolution for Life The Universal nature of conflictWhat relationships of value will we experience at work?At home?Work:Co-workers Supervisors SuperviseesClients Vendors CustomersSupport Staff Regulators ManagementNow let’s stop to consider all of the relationships of value that we will hold during the course of our lifetimes. Who will be the important people in our lives?Take a moment and write down two brief lists… one the holds relationships of value for our work settings and then another that includes relationships of value in our lives outside of work.Who are these relationships with?At work…
6 Conflict Resolution for Life The Universal nature of conflictWhat relationships of value will we experience at work?At home?Home:Partner/Spouse Parents ChildrenOther Relatives Friends NeighborsCommunity Service Providers SpiritualAt home…
7 Conflict Resolution for Life The Universal nature of conflictPlease note all of the relationships of value that will never experience conflict…EVERY relationship of value experiences conflictThe most important relationships in our lives are those that also generate the most conflictWhat is important is to develop a better understanding of conflict, and how it impacts our lives both in the work place and at homeNow let me ask you, as you look at those two lists of relationships… which of those relationships will never experience any conflict?Are there any?Will we have conflict with people that we work with? That we report to? That we supervise?That we are married or partnered to? That we raise and love?I believe it is fair to say that every relationship of value in our lives will experience conflict.Further, I think it is fair to say that the most important relationships in our lives are the ones that will experience the most conflict in. Think of the relationships in your own life… who have you experienced the most conflict with?And yet, if we remember the emotions and feelings that we attached to conflict, we know that we have rather negative feelings about the phenomenon we call conflict. Yet if we know that conflict will be a part of every relationship of value, do our negative feelings about conflict assist us or hurt us in cultivating those relationships? Does our negative socialization towards conflict make us better able to work through the problems that we encounter conflict, or do they strain and damage our relationships? It seems to me that…We need to develop a better understanding of conflict, better understand how conflict impacts our lives, and develop a more positive orientation towards something that we know will be a part of our daily existence.
8 Conflict Resolution for Life The structure of conflictLet’s examine two perspectives on the structure of conflict:PIN Model of ConflictPAV Model of ConflictWhat we will finish this section with is an actual definition of conflict for use at work and at homeNow we will shift our attention (for a few moments) to the structure of conflict. I will warn you that here is where things can become a little “texty” for you, but I will do my best not to make you feel like you are back in high school. Looking at the structure of conflict really does help us understand why we act the way we do when faced with conflicts.We are first going to look at the structure of conflict in three different ways (PIN Model, PAV Model, and the Lens Model) to get us to a place where we can see the impact of our negative orientation towards conflict. If we are asked to define conflict, each of us could come up with a few key words that give a working definition, but usually that definition is an outgrowth of the emotions we are experiencing in conflict. What we need, and what we will end this section with, is a practical definition of what conflict actually is.
9 Conflict Resolution for Life The structure of conflictThe PIN Model of ConflictPositionsInterestsNeedsThe PIN Model simply stands for the Positions, Interests and Needs that exist in any conflict.And why do I put a picture of an iceberg up here… what can an iceberg teach us about conflict?Well, simply put, we know that the overwhelming majority of an iceberg is below the surface of the water, and is not immediately evident to us.
10 Conflict Resolution for Life The structure of conflictThe PIN Model of ConflictPositions(what we say we want)Interests(what we actually want)Needs(what we must have)So too is this the case with conflict.We begin above the waterline as it were with the surface issues that give rise to the conflict. We attach positions to those issues.. Simple demands, commands, and opinions that serve as our shorthand for engaging in the conflict. Thus, I may demand restitution for something broken, an apology for some perceived offense, or simply insisting that you do something my way because I am right.Conflict is most often fought in this zone, leaving most of the actual conflict untouched, and with varying degrees of success. Compromises can be earned, and some victories gained, but the root cause always remains, likely to reappear at another time. One author tells us that we are typically so rooted in our positions and demands that the conversation is a “dialogue of the deaf” where everyone is talking but no one is listening. Therefore, no learning or growth can take place.Only by moving below the waterline can we appreciate that there are things beyond the stated issues… that there are personalities, emotions, agendas, needs, desires, perceptions, personal baggage, expectations, and other issues that prevent us from getting to the heart of the matter, dealing with root causes of conflict, and finally addressing the actual interests and needs of the parties involved. When I train mediators, I teach them how to get the parties past the place where they are stuck in their own positions to a place where genuine dialogue can occur. For those trying to resolve conflict without the use of trained mediators, getting past positions can be a daunting task. But it is something we can achieve, if we are able to get past the negative orientation that we have for conflict situations, and learn to deal with the emotions we have while also taking personal responsibility for our own role in the conflict. It takes patience, it takes a desire to see the needs of all parties met, and it takes humility, but it can be done.
11 Conflict Resolution for Life The structure of conflictThe PAV Model of ConflictPerceptionsAssumptionsValuesAnother means for examining conflict is to look at why we sometimes find ourselves unable to successfully resolve conflict based on our views of the other person or other people involved.The P-A-V model tells us that our engagement is impacted by our perceptions and assumptions about the other party, as well as our commitment to our own values and our questioning of the values of the other party.
12 Conflict Resolution for Life The structure of conflictThe PAV Model of ConflictPerceptionsHow we see the world and how we see the other party (influenced by our lens)We know that perceptions are simply the way we view the world.We know that in many cases where witnesses see the same incident, they often describe it very differently. They do so without malicious intent. It is simply that their perception of what took place is framed by their own personal wiring, as well as the experiences that shaped them.
13 Conflict Resolution for Life Therefore, some people will look at this illustration and see an old woman, while others will see a young woman. Neither response is right or wrong… it is simply informed by the way we view the world.
14 Conflict Resolution for Life The structure of conflictThe PAV Model of ConflictAssumptionsJudgments we make about people based on our perceptions of themOur perspective on conflict is also shaped by the assumptions we make about people and situations, and these assumptions are drawn directly from our perceptions.If our perceptions are accurate, then most often the assumptions we make will be closer to accurate. But if our perceptions are not accurate… if I think that someone is intending to do me harm when in fact they have no such intention, then my assumptions will likely fall far from the mark.
15 Conflict Resolution for Life The structure of conflictThe PAV Model of ConflictValuesOur core beliefs about the worldValues are the last element of the equation, and this speaks to the beliefs we hold about the world in, which often provide direction for how we think and act, and for how we believe other people should think and act.
16 Conflict Resolution for Life The structure of conflictThe PAV Model of ConflictPerceptionsAssumptionsValuesWhich of these is not negotiable?VALUESTherefore, we need to…Of the three, let me ask, which of these do you believe we will be least willing to negotiate, or the hardest to have change in the lifespan of a conflict?Of course it is values… again, these are believes that we hold close to our souls… they help define who we are.So knowing that are values are not up for negotiation, and accepting that the other parties values are also similarly not up for negotiation, what should be focusing on in conflict situations? We should be paying attention to our perceptions and their accompanying assumptions, making sure that they are as accurate as possible.
17 Conflict Resolution for Life The structure of conflictDefining ConflictCONFLICT is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals. (Wilmot & Hocker)Now that we have been through the models, let’s end this portion with a definition of conflict. Let’s gain a rational and intellectual understanding about something that until now we have only been able to identify through our emotions, and therefore been stunted in how we address. Let’s understand this beats so that we may assert our control over it, and break it down into bite-size pieces so that we control our conflicts rather than letting them control us.Interdependent partiesIncompatible goalsScarce resourcesInterference from othersAny substantive conflict from a relationship of value can be broken down into these parts… will provide my own example on the breakout session following this presentation.
18 “Rick’s Conflict” House versus Hawaii Conflict Resolution for Life“Rick’s Conflict”House versus Hawaii
19 Does this conflict meet the definition? Conflict Resolution for LifeDoes this conflict meet the definition?CONFLICT is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals. (Wilmot & Hocker)
20 Conflict Resolution for Life How we should view conflictSo let’s move for a few moments into considering how we should view conflict in our lives.To me, it’s important to step back and take a broader view. Think about the entirety of your life… from the moment you were born until the day of your death. As we see in this illustration, the dates on a grave marker tell us the beginning and end dates, but they tell us nothing about the quality of the life that was lived. They tell us nothing about the dash… that simple part of the engraving that is the most important part, because that’s where our living took place. The dash is the thing.
21 Conflict Resolution for Life How we should view conflictThis can be easily translated to how we view the conflicts that exist in our lives in all of our lives.This is how most of us tend to see the conflicts in our lives; isolated events that disrupt what would otherwise be a smooth journey on the road of life. We deal with the hurdle, then get on with our lives until we encounter the next hurdle, and we do it again. Rinse and repeat.In truth this is how many people view their entire lives… we have to get through high school, then through college and sometimes graduate or professional school, then get settled in our work life before we can really move on with our lives. As if these events did not constitute our lives.
22 Conflict Resolution for Life How we should view conflictI think the road of life, and the road of conflict, works a little bit differently than this last picture. This is how I view it…Instead of isolated conflicts interrupting our lives, our conflicts comprise our lives. Instead of seeing conflicts as the bumps in the road, I have come to see the conflicts as the road.Such a perspective doesn’t make every conflict easier, or mean that difficult subjects won’t raise difficult emotions, but I can attest to the fact that adopting this perspective is a freeing experience… it frees me to understand, it frees me to inquire, it frees me to be wrong, and it frees me to not invest every fiber of my being into every conflict with every person. It is a liberating perspective if you can get there.
23 Conflict Resolution for Life How we should view conflictConflict is an inevitable part of every relationship of valueCan be resolved so that both parties feel they have “won”and without the need for someone to “lose.”Conflict signals a need for change, evolution, and/orgrowth in a relationshipConflict can strengthen relationships rather than weakenthemWe’ve seen the pictures that offer us the perspective, so what are the words?Seeing conflict as ‘the road” means accepting that:
26 Avoidance Strategies: Ignoring the problem/conflict Conflict Resolution for LifeAvoidanceStrategies:Ignoring the problem/conflictDenial of the problem/conflictEvasion of the problem/conflictJoking about the problem/conflict
27 Avoidance When to Practice: Conflict Resolution for LifeAvoidanceWhen to Practice:When the issue or relationship is unimportantWhen there is no chance of a positive outcomeWhen risks of confrontation outweigh benefits of resolutionWhen other party has significantly greater powerWhen one or more parties needs time to “cool down”When it is appropriate to let others resolve conflict
28 Avoidance Disadvantages: Decisions made by default/without input Conflict Resolution for LifeAvoidanceDisadvantages:Decisions made by default/without inputIssues likely to remain unresolvedLoss of influence in a situation or relationshipLeads to self-doubt and loss of self-esteemMay be unable to deal with conflicts in the futureDemonstrates a lack of caring/investment
30 Accommodation Strategies: Giving in or giving up Conflict Resolution for LifeAccommodationStrategies:Giving in or giving upDenying one’s own needsPlacing harmony in the relationship over the issues in conflict
31 Accommodation When to Practice: When one is wrong/other is right Conflict Resolution for LifeAccommodationWhen to Practice:When one is wrong/other is rightWhen there is a desire for harmony in the relationshipWhen relationship is more important than the disputeWhen losses can be minimizedWhen a party needs to “save face”When one wants leverage for future conflict
32 Accommodation Disadvantages: Requires party to give something up Conflict Resolution for LifeAccommodationDisadvantages:Requires party to give something upIssues likely to remain unresolvedDoes not generate creative solutionsCan cause frustration and/or resentmentCreates a loss of influence in situation/relationshipCan damage relationshipsCan foster competition over “niceness”
34 Competition Strategies: Hostile remarks or jokes Conflict Resolution for LifeCompetitionStrategies:Hostile remarks or jokesThreats and/or coercionDenial of own responsibilityVerbal argumentsPhysical altercationsCovert actions
35 Competition When to Practice: Conflict Resolution for LifeCompetitionWhen to Practice:When immediate and decisive action is necessaryWhen the style will be rewardedWhen there is no relationship of valueWhen the issue is more important than the relationshipWhere a party needs to prove commitment/strengthWhen total victory is desiredWhen competing can bring parties together/make both better
36 Competition Disadvantages: Strains/damages relationships Conflict Resolution for LifeCompetitionDisadvantages:Strains/damages relationshipsRequires that one/both/all be “losers” in conflictConflict may escalateLess likely to use constructive approaches laterMay encourage covert actionsCan lead to stalematesCreates resentment and/or desire for revenge
38 Compromise Strategies: Conflict Resolution for LifeCompromiseStrategies:Both parties give and take to find a “middle ground”Offer a short-term resolution for “peace-keeping”Appeals to fair play/fairness
39 Compromise When to Practice: When a temporary solution is needed Conflict Resolution for LifeCompromiseWhen to Practice:When a temporary solution is neededWhen parties are of equal powerWhen parties wish to save time and energyWhen doing so “seems fair” to all parties
40 Compromise Disadvantages: Often leaves underlying issues unresolved Conflict Resolution for LifeCompromiseDisadvantages:Often leaves underlying issues unresolvedIssue may become a recurring problemParties required to give something upOne/both/all parties may not be completely satisfiedBecomes an easy way out of creative conflict resolutionLeads to “position padding”
42 Collaboration Strategies: Conflict Resolution for LifeCollaborationStrategies:Open and honest dialogue that is positive and constructiveWillingness to listen to another viewEmotions dealt with properlySeeking input from other partyWillingness to accept responsibility for one’s actionsGiving ground without “giving in” (reason v. compromise)
43 Collaboration When to Practice: When the relationship is important Conflict Resolution for LifeCollaborationWhen to Practice:When the relationship is importantWhen a mutually satisfying outcome is soughtWhen both views/sides are too important to compromiseWhen underlying issues need to be addressedWhen one wants to avoid destructive means for handling conflictWhen new and creative solutions are desired
44 Collaboration Disadvantages: Takes more time and energy Conflict Resolution for LifeCollaborationDisadvantages:Takes more time and energyRequires both parties to be committed to the processMakes a party appear unreasonable if he/she later decides against collaborationA collaborative party may appear weak to an aggressive party
45 “Rick’s Conflict” House versus Hawaii Conflict Resolution for Life“Rick’s Conflict”House versus HawaiiLet’s try:AvoidanceAccommodationCompetitionCompromiseCollaboration
46 Conflict Resolution for Life How we should manage conflictKeys to successful conflict management:Managing Conflict is a ChoiceListen, Listen, Listen (SILENT = LISTEN)Show you are listening (Restate) Avoid Poisons (name calling, exaggerations, comparisons, etc.)Recognize power dynamics and know when to avoid, cool down, and/or involve appropriate third partiesSo we now know what conflict has meant to us historically, what it is made of, and we now have an intellectual definition of what conflict is. We have also reviewed how we should view conflict. But now we get to the money question… what do we do about it?While there is not magic bullet for resolving conflict, there are a number of helpful suggestions that, when applied, make it more likely that we will find win/win outcomes for the disputes that take place in our lives, whether they occur at work or at home.Let’s conclude my presentation by taking a look at some of the more important tips for managing conflict.
47 Conflict Resolution for Life How we should manage conflictKeys to successful conflict management:Deal with strong emotions in a constructive way Know when each conflict style will be beneficialAvoid Passive/Aggressive Behaviors Trust in yourself and the other person to resolve the conflict
48 Conflict Resolution for Life Final Reflection / HomeworkOne thing that I learned about conflict resolution today (or think differently now about) is…I am best at handling conflicts that concern…I am least effective at handling conflicts that concern…The most helpful skills I bring to conflict resolution are…My responses to conflict would be more effective if I…Brian said I couldn’t give you an exam, but he failed to place any restrictions on my ability to assign homework.So tonight, after you’ve had an opportunity to digest all of the information that you have heard throughout your day, I want you to simply engage in some reflection about how you view and manage conflict.(read five statements)Just think about these statements, think about how you view conflict, and think about little adjustments you could make to your style of managing conflict that would improve the quality of your life both in the office and at home.
49 Conflict Resolution for Life For more information on this presentation or on conflict resolution, please contact me at or visit my website at This Power Point presentation is already posted to my website.I hope that this presentation has offered something new to you… something that will be of value to you when you next find yourself in a conflict. And since we know that conflict permeates our lives, we know you will have an opportunity to practice some of this sooner rather than later.I welcome contact by or at my website, and I have already placed the slides from today’s presentation on the site if you would like a copy.Thanks to Brian and to the Chamber for having me out today, and thanks to all of you for giving me so much of your attention.