Self-Transformation Series:
Issue No. 32


Handling Conflict


Table of Contents

I. Why Important

II. The Roots of Conflict

III. Handling Interpersonal Conflicts

    1. Be Willing to Resolve Conflict
    2. Assess if Conflict is Real or Not
    3. Clarify the Facts and Communicate
    4. Settle Emotional Conflicts first
    5. Be Able to State the Other Party's Concerns
    6. Suggest a Cooperative Effort to Resolve the Conflict
    7. Be Fair and Objective
    8. Avoid Accusatory Words
    9. Ask a Third Party to Mediate


I. Why Important

Conflict is inevitable so long as we live with people and in society. A person who is unable to handle conflict well often experiences personal unhappiness as well as ineffectiveness in our work and relationships. On the other hand, one who handles conflict effectively becomes more effective in his work and gains greater inner peace.

Managing conflict constructively can be learned, and it is an extremely valuable capability. It is not, however, simply learning a skill or a technique, but a quality which is rooted in the character of each individual.

II. The Roots of Conflict

Conflicts arise from many sources. The main ones are as follows:

1. Conflicting interests -- two parties have needs which are initially incompatible.

2. Misunderstanding or miscommunication -- two parties have the wrong impression that they have incompatible interests.

3. Hurt feelings -- people are inclined to be hostile or uncooperative if they have been previously hurt by another party.

4. Aggressiveness and Selfishness -- an unreasonable, unfair, and destructive assertion of oneís interest.

5. Unreasonable belief systems -- Some groups or individuals, even if sincere, may harbor belief systems that are intolerant, aggressive or destructive. Example: Forcible religious conversion, aggressive chauvinism.

III. Handling Interpersonal Conflicts

In this outline, we shall focus on interpersonal conflicts only and leave the social conflicts to a later discussion.

1. Be Willing to Resolve Conflict

If you are a party to the conflict, you must first decide that you are committed to resolving it. This positive attitude is important. Disinterest to resolve the conflict will derail efforts, especially if there is a hidden interest in maintaining the conflict.

2. Assess if Conflict is Real or Not

Many conflicts are simply due to misperception or misunderstanding. For example: Clara my have said, "I donít want to join you in your trip," and this is misunderstood as "I donít like you" which can be the beginning of emotional conflict. But Clara may really have meant, "I canít join you on that date because I have a previous commitment, but if you change the date, I would like to go.

3. Clarify the Facts and Communicate

Do not assume that your version of the conflict is correct. Check the facts and clarify with the other party to ensure that there is no misunderstanding. Be willing to sit down with the other party and thresh out any areas of misunderstanding or miscommunication.

4. Settle Emotional Conflicts First

When the conflict involves strong emotions such as hurt or resentment, these must first be addressed before tackling technical or factual issues. This is because people are often unwilling to listen, unreasonable and unobjective when their feelings run high.

5. Be Able to State the Other Partyís Concerns

An important step in resolving conflict is for each party to be able to state the concerns of the other to the satisfaction of the other party. This bridges an important communication gap that will often immediately resolve conflicts that arise from misperceptions. Showing the other party that you understand his/her concerns will tend to soften any aggressiveness on his/her part. Only after you have shown this should you state your own concerns.

6. Suggest a Cooperative Effort to Resolve the Conflict

After identifying objectively the concerns of both sides and the genuine areas of conflict or incompatibility of interests, ask for suggestions on how this may be resolved to the satisfaction of both. Your own open attitude will tend to make the other person think of acceptable ways and means to end the conflict. This mutual willingness will be the road towards a win/win solution to conflict.

7. Be Fair and Objective

Realize that any unreasonable demands from your part will only strengthen the attitude of the other not to give in. Be willing to reconsider the situation objectively.

8. Avoid Accusatory Words

If you give feedback, you need not be accusatory. Describe your own feelings or responses to what "you" happened, rather than impute motives to what the other person did. Use "I" rather than "you" in making statements.

9. Ask a Third Party to Mediate

When issues are difficult to resolve, ask a person respected by, and acceptable to, both of you to sit down with you.


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Copyright 1995. Permission to reprint is granted provided acknowledgment is made to:
Peace Center
Theosophical Society in the Philippines, 1 Iba St., Quezon City, Philippines
E-mail: tspeace@mnl.sequel.net

"If five percent of the people work for peace, there will be peace."