As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, December 2005.
Conflict is not always a disruption of order, a negative experience or an error in a relationship. It is not necessarily a battle between incompatible interests or a struggle between right and wrong. It does, however, concern values, feelings and beliefs that when shared, can operate as a foundation for trust. Finally, it is not an isolated event that defines an entire relationship. Instead, it can be used to clarify a relationship or to provide new ways of thinking and additional options for behavior.
In the mortgage business, unresolved conflict can lead to substantial costs, such as wasted time, bad decisions, lost employees, unnecessary restructuring, theft, damage, diminished motivation and poor health. Resolved conflict, on the other hand, can decrease these costs. It also can build better relationships, increase individual self-esteem and promote good health.
When individuals are anxious about conflict or view it as a negative experience, they hurt their opportunities for dealing with it effectively. Typically, these anxieties include fear of harm, rejection, loss of relationship, anger and failure. Conflict, however, is neither positive nor negative. Instead, it emerges from the diversity in our attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, values and social structures.
There are three levels of conflict resolution. The lowest level comes when one party dominates the other or the relationship dissolves. The middle level comes when the parties settle a particular conflict but do little to enhance the relationship beyond immediate concerns. People reach the highest level when they reach a resolution that meets individual and shared needs, results in mutual benefits and strengthens the relationship.
With these levels in mind, consider the five ineffective resolution styles: conquest, avoidance, bargaining, quick fix and role-play.
In this approach, one person tries to weaken others by proving them wrong, scoring a victory or defeating them. By using bullying, dominance and manipulation, this approach creates a pattern of using power in destructive ways.
The stronger party controls the weaker person, which deprives the relationship of the weaker's meaningful contributions. This dynamic polarizes the positions of the parties and restricts future options. In this win-lose dynamic, the losers want revenge. Overall, this approach creates destruction and inefficiency.
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