To Resolve or Avoid Conflict?

To Resolve or Avoid Conflict?

Anyone who loves to read or watch a good movie realizes that conflict drives the plot. The hero or heroine spends the story trying to resolve the major conflict while putting out the fires of smaller conflicts along the way.

In the end, there is generally a resolution, and all go on their happy way. Unfortunately, in real life we don’t have a script, so we spend a great deal of time avoiding conflict rather than seeking resolution. This avoidance of conflict may seem positive since it also may prevent an altercation. But avoiding conflict can allow an unresolved problem or disagreement to fester, creating an uncomfortable living or work situation.

Healthy Conflict Resolution is Timely Conflict Resolution

Mediator standing between two people shouting at each otherResolving conflict does not mean “starting something.” It means opening the lines of communication and removing obstacles that are getting in the way of productivity. That obstacle, the proverbial elephant in the room, can create an atmosphere of discomfort and tension that leads to stress.

And that stress can cause health problems such as anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, and even heart disease. What’s the downside of avoiding dealing with conflicts? Unresolved conflict in the work setting causes displaced anger and resentment.

For example, you may be upset that a co-worker received a leadership position you really wanted. Instead of voicing your disappointment and expressing your desire to advance to your supervisor, you harbor resentment toward the co-worker. Before long it seems that everything the co-worker does annoys you. If the situation goes on for too long, you may even forget the real reason behind the resentment.

The reality is that you created a situation where you are upset and consumed with petty thoughts and the co-worker and others may be entirely unaware of anything other than your unpleasantness. It is self-punishing behavior that quickly becomes a lose-lose situation when conflict is not managed in a healthy and timely manner.

Unresolved Conflict is Morale and Productivity Draining

Conflict resolution meeting between three peopleIt’s often the conflicts that are outside ourselves, the ones over which we have little control, that cause the most stress. For this reason, it’s vital that problems within our immediate environment be managed in a timely and effective way. 

Conflict between individuals or groups within an organization working toward a common goal can stifle productivity and cause a sharp decline in morale. Many people feel that others view any attempts to resolve conflict as confrontational, so they avoid it. However, avoiding conflict does not solve problems, it prolongs them.

Taking and sharing responsibility for conflict, its origins as well as its resolution, can help unify rather than divide.

4 Steps to Short-Circuit Conflict

HandshakeWhile you can’t completely avoid conflict, you can take steps to resolve it as quickly as possible. These four steps are the best way to get started:

1. Identify the Problem

First, think about how the conflict started. Was it a misunderstanding? Were you actually upset about something else and let your bad feelings transfer to this situation? Is there a real difference of opinion that needs to be discussed?

2. Commit to Resolving the Problem

Once you think you know what the source of the conflict is, invite the others involved to share their understanding of the situation with a neutral moderator present. When you have a shared understanding of the issue, take some time away from each other to calm down and get some perspective.

3. Work Together to Find the Solution

When everyone is ready, get all the people involved back together with the moderator and brainstorm not just solutions, but also ways to avoid the same issue cropping up in the future.

4. Commit to Accepting the Resolution

Even if it’s the not the outcome you hoped for, you need to work on accepting the agreed on resolution.

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