Conflict Management By Dianne Irene © 2004
A new sensibility
about conflict reflects the ability to channel energy into a positive
outcome where resolution is the goal rather than ascertaining a victory
of political, personal, or egocentric origin. The power is in how
one reacts to situations in life and not always, what is happening.
It is rather a comfort to see the higher functioning of individuals
in social groups.
with moral issues the resolution is not always achieved. One example
given by Pierce in Moral Conflict, speaks of two groups disputing
over a CIA visit to their campus. Even when negotiations were sought,
these two groups displayed reactions that opposed the idea of a new
sensibility and “The party line of both sides was that the other
had forfeited its right to participate in civilized society”
(Pierce, 1997, p. 5). Pierce explains that moral conflicts do not
always reach a resolution by “ordinary discourse” (p.
5). Conflict is “the expressed disagreements between people
who see incompatible goals and potential interference in achieving
these goals. Conflict, then, is defined by its mixed motive nature
as entailing both cooperation and competition” (Putnam, 2001,
p. 11). Putnam points out that recognizing certain ironies, accepting
them, and developing new concepts are important as handling conflict
continues to evolve over time (p. 11).
historical development of conflict, personal interests were a non-issue
and cooperation was seen as the expected behavior. The irony of this
approach is that the conflict would continue to arise regardless of
how much cooperation was achieved. While the political or coalition
model of organization focused on negotiation and persuasion, there
were those, “that lacked voice or necessary alliances typically
avoided or tolerated conflict, thereby perpetuating their marginal
nature in organizations” (Putnam, 2001, p. 13). While seeing
one group as legitimate, the other group risked becoming marginalized
the quasi-legal perspective focuses on a formal grievance process
where “power, rights, and interests” are considered. Formal
dispute resolution focuses on interest-based issues where individuals
are encouraged to intervene early in the conflict, use face-to-face
dialogue, and move these conflicts to the lowest levels (14). Diversity
disputes may cause those of minority from being heard within their
own terms. Hidden disputes play an important role in factoring resolutions.
Putnam explains that unlike, “the formal system, the communication
tactics of hidden conflict include complaining, ignoring requests,
gossiping, sabotaging, retaliating, having hidden agendas, and engaging
in informal peacemaking. Emotional expressions such as venting feelings,
being hurt, and showing displeasure become legitimate vehicles for
handing conflict” (p. 15). Both formal and informal conflict
organizations should balance around the center of how these conflicts
grow and change over time and “how participants assert their
respective interests in defining and shaping a disagreement”
search as described by Weisbord and Janoff (1995) takes the direction
on facilitator ship where all should be heard and allowed to express
themselves. The facilitator intervenes only when the direction is
not moving in a positive direction. Opportunities are the focal point
of resolution and problems are only obstacles (pp. 38-39).
orientations toward conflict can be explained by anarchy, a realist
approach, and the minimalist approach. Anarchy is established as a
denial of conflict as the realist represses conflict, and the minimalist
tolerates conflict (p. 31). Understanding these orientations lays
a foundation of dealing with individual perspectives. Identifying
the different types of conflict, whether it is that of a game theorist
of theory or math logistics can be changed by “the power of
language” (p. 36). Conflict should be seen as a dialogue rather
than a monologue. Understanding the conflict is more valuable than
knowing how to win and that intervention should be seen as an art
the other hand eloquently paints a motif of realizations in personal
growth and awareness in dealing with conflict. Crum summarizes important
realizations in conflict by stating that conflict should be seen as
neutral energy that should evoke change with the focus of what you
do to react to that conflict. Gaining a victory or suffering a loss
is never the goal. Cooperation, growth, and learning are important
factors of finding resolutions. Conflict should create a new reality
where differences are respected and valued with a renewed awareness
of our perceptions (Crum, 1987, p. 49).
an individual’s perspective has a great impact on the use of
energy. Choosing what to concern ourselves with can effect our performance.
Thomas Crum points out that distress can greatly influence our well-being
and if not handled properly can lead to chronic disease. Stress should
then be culminated as an ally where we learn a balance between what
is and what we want and accept it.
a clear vision of our purpose is imperative to our state of being.
Crum notes that this journey follows a pattern of realization on a
deeper more meaningful level. It involves a journey beyond the carnal
to a place where what matters is, “making a contribution that’s
wanted-giving love, being understanding, respecting others, and serving
those who need us. Our true vision becomes a verb-to love, to serve,
to understand” (Crum, 1987, p. 198).
always be a balance between what is and what should be. Appreciative
language conveys an appreciation for the balance in a positive light.
There is just something about a positive dialogue that brings out
a more responsive party. Cooperrider and Witney state that, “Appreciative
Inquiry is about the coevolutionary search for the best in people,
their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest
focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives “life”
to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most
constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms.”
(p.3) It makes sense that if you pour your energy into things that
give life fulfillment will follow which leads people to a more productive
place. This can also be seen in those who are the opposite. Those
who are draining and exhausting are those who are negative and unsatisfied.
is viewed as insincere or over the top then a negative response would
be likely. However, when this appreciative approach is used with sincerity
then a positive outcome is that of growth and energy. Consider a person
that seemed to draw other people in by their magnetism. It was their
positive energy that was contagious and warm like the summer sun.
Those who wish to negate a philosophy of “positivism”
may be neglecting a source of energy for all human beings.
If a moment
it taken to see how young children respond to a positive and supportive
person then no sophisticated scientific method would be needed to
prove that there are benefits to the appreciative approach. It is
much like a computer where what is put into a situation becomes the
resources for which they become used. If negative attitudes, argumentative
approaches, and harsh language are part of the arena, then those are
the standards from which we have to work with. A very important factor
for successful relationships is good communication. Appreciative language
creates a foundation for which that can commence. Cooperrider and
Whitney (2004) Ask a profound question of, “What would happen
to our change practices if we began all of our work with the positive
presumption—that organizations, as centers of human relatedness,
are “alive” with infinite constructive capacity?”.
(p. 2) When we can answer this in our everyday lives then we will
reinforced by the concept of Transformative orientation, where conflict
is seen as an opportunity to grow in self and others. Change comes
to the “self” with the realization of how to deal with
obscurities and allows a transformation of one’s action and
choices in those reactions. On the other hand, the transformation
for concern of others materializes a compassion that enables differences
to coexist. Both of these transformations lead to moral maturity.
(Bush and Folger, 1994) The focus is then to transform the individuals
to a higher level of maturity rather than to simply resolve the conflict.
(p. 82) According to Bush and Folger (1940), if “this is done,
then the response to conflict itself helps transform individuals from
fearful, defensive, or self-centered beings into confident, responsive,
and caring ones, ultimately transforming society as well. This, of
course, is the vision of the Transformation Story of the mediation
movement.” Also, when this is achieved on a deep level, “the
view that fostering moral growth should be a primary goal of social
processes like mediation rests on a belief, grounded in what can be
called a Relational vision of human life, that compassionate strength
(moral maturity) embodies an intrinsic goodness inherent in human
beings.” Once this is realized, “Bringing out that goodness
is itself a supremely important human enterprise, because it is the
surest if not the only way to produce a truly decent society and because
it embodies and expresses the highest and best within us as human
beings”. (p. 83)
the transformative approach comes empowerment and recognition that
are vital forces to mediation and leads to the most important objective
of achieving them. (p. 84) Empowerment enables one to see what is
important to them and why, clearly realized goals and the willingness
to stand by these goals, understanding options and being aware that
there is power in how you react to those choices and feels a responsibility
in choosing them, transformation in growth is achieved, and making
conscious decisions based on the assessment of the perspectives that
are reflective of the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. (p.
self-protection are recognition and the ability to give recognition
to the other party. Feeling secure enough to allow a focus on the
other party and their situation with a greater understanding is a
key step in mediation. Channeling what may be seen as aggressive attacks
from another party as a response of frustration and self-preservation
allows room for better communication. Moving from a negative approach
to a more enlightened awareness of what the other party may actually
be contributes to peace. The pursuit of accommodation or the acknowledgement
of the best possible accommodation are expressed and to the best of
ability achieved. (Bush and Folger, 1994)
a balance of our identity (Bush and Folger, 1994) is the key to where
we embrace and adapt to the needs of others and ourselves. Sometimes
not reacting can be a powerful response allowing another force to
have the room to seek balance. Compassion can even lead to a positive
resolution. Resolutions will not always be reached, but the process
can be beneficial with understanding being achieved. The new sensibility
of conflict is reflected by many factors leading to the same principal
where moving forward with the ability to better handle conflicts and
reach a personal growth are achieved.
Bush, A. &
Folger, J. (1994). Changing people not just situations. In The promise
of mediation: Responding to conflict through empowerment and recognition
(pp. 81 –112). San Francisco: Josey-Bass
D.L. & Whitney, D. (n.d.). A positive revolution in change: Appreciative
inquiry. Retrieved May 13, 2004 from A Positive Revolution in Change:
Crum, T. (1987).
The magic of conflict. New York, NY: Touchstone.
Pearce, K. A.
(2002). Making better social worlds: Engaging in and facilitating
dialogic communication. Redwood City, CA: Pearce Associates
Pearce, W. and
Littlejohn, S. (1997). Moral conflict: when social worlds collide.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Putnam, L. (2001).
The language of opposition: Challenge in organizational dispute
resolution. In W. F. Eadie & P.E. Nelson (Eds.), The language
of conflict and
resolution (p 10-20). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
and Janoff, S. (1995). Future search: an action guide to finding common
ground in organizations and communities (pp. 15-39), San Francisco: