“Man is born unto trouble, just as the sparks fly upwards.” ~ Job 5:7
Trouble no dey finish.
If you live and work in Nigeria, you can’t run away from conflict.
Here is an example conflict married Nigerians face often.
Imagine you’re a man married to a working woman. You work in a multinational located at Ikeja, Lagos. Your wife works with the Federal Government Immigration Service. And her office is at Abeokuta, Ogun state.
Recently, both of you are having minor marriage squabbles. Consumed by work, both of you rarely get to spend quality time with each other. It’s either you’re away. Or she’s away. Even on weekends.
Through years of hard work, you guys now have a decent duplex in Ikeja, where you live with two kids…
During a meeting with your wife to find how best to manage this minor squabble, she flares up…
“Before you go on, know that I won’t resign my job. That’s a no-go area. I love my family, but I want a career, too. It’s not about money. It’s about me being fulfilled and happy. Only a career can give me that.”
So how would you react? What mental framework would you use to handle this? Which way to manage conflict proves to be the best in this situation?
Don’t know. Can’t say. But there are many ways to manage conflict. Let me walk you through 6 proven ways to manage conflict.
Your choice of which way to manage conflict, will depend on what you want out of the situation.
Like they say, “the end justifies the means.”
6 Proven Ways to Manage Conflict
Below are 6 proven ways to manage conflict.
But before you start wrapping your ahead around how to manage conflict, do you know what conflict is?
What is conflict?
Conflict refers to situations in which two or more people have incompatible objectives.
Conflict situations end in either win-win, win-lose, or lose-lose.
To make this clear, consider the husband and wife in the example above.
They’re squabbling over how they can make more time for each other.
This is a clear conflict situation: the wife wants a career and the husband wants more time with the wife.
Both of them have objectives that are incompatible.
- Struggle for scarce resources
- Differences in beliefs, attitudes, values and skills
Before every conflict goes full blown, there are subtle signs or stages it goes through.
At this stage, you have the perception in your head that someone is trying to stop you from reaching your objectives. Thinking about what the other person is doing to keep you away from your objective alone makes you start having some negative emotions towards this person.
This is the second stage in conflict development. Here you think about what you can do to stop this person. Basically, you consider a few strategies you can use.
This is where you implement your chosen strategy. You could use any of the 6 proven ways to manage conflict at this stage.
At this stage, you assess the results of applying your chosen strategy. By asking yourself few questions, such as did it help me achieve my objectives? did it fail? what other strategies can I try? you know whether the conflict has been resolved. A conflict remains unresolved until all parties are satisfied.
From the day humans got interested in how to live, people have viewed conflict in different ways
In the traditional view, conflict is seen as something to be avoided completely.
Many associate it with destructive tendencies. So avoiding them helps keep people and organizations working efficiently.
Human relations view
This view centers around conflict being inevitable and natural. Conflict is believed to have the ability to contribute positively to group performance.
This view encourages conflict. People actually need certain levels of conflict for optimal performance.
Depending on where you look, there are many types of conflict.
One scholar says conflict can be of two types: intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict. Another says conflict could be classed into task conflict and relationship conflict.
I like the task and relationship conflict classification better. Here is what they mean.
This is conflict that comes from a difference in views or perspectives about a task being performed.
Ever yelled at a colleague at work? Maybe because they can’t seem to complete a basic task in Microsoft Excel correctly?
That’s task conflict in action.
You have a view of what should be done in the Excel file; your colleague have theirs, too.
And s/he ends up submitting to you a completed task based on their views, not yours.
Task conflict in marriage revolves round how best to manage money and time. When couples argue over money or time together, you have task conflict in action.
And the good thing is, task conflict can be resolved pretty quickly.
Task conflict at work can also be resolved quickly. This resolution usually leads to improved organizational performance.
This is a disagreement coming from interpersonal differences.
You must have faced relationship conflict, too.
That one guy or girl you were dating that will lie to you repeatedly. And over time, you just won’t trust them with anything.
Relationship conflicts in marriage usually comes from lying, cheating, lack of respect, not following through with commitment.
Ways to manage conflict
When faced with any conflict situation, we have two things at stake: objectives and relationships.
Back to our earlier example, the husband’s objective is: “more time with his loving wife.” The wife’s objective is: “fulfilling career outside the shadow of her husband.”
In a marriage, both persons want to maintain the relationship so they can have a lasting marriage.
Basically, every conflict situation puts the spotlight on these differing objectives. It also tries to put a strain on relationships.
What then are ways the two or more persons in a conflict situation can achieve their individual objectives and maintain their relationship?
If you want to resolve a conflict while maintaining your relationship, the compromising conflict management style is your best bet.
Compromising style means finding a common ground between two positions. You drop some of your objectives, while the other person drops some of theirs.
This conflict management style usually ends in either win-win or win lose situations.
Again, from our earlier example, using the compromising conflict management style, the husband and wife might decide to rent an apartment at Mowe, halfway between Lagos and Abeokuta. Then agree to make it home each night after work so they can have a good time together.
Using a collaborating conflict management style involves seeing conflict as problems to be solved, rather than something destructive.
In a collaborating style, you want your objectives as well as the objectives of the other person achieved, without any of you having to give up any of your objectives.
This style leads to a win-win situation, where everyone is happy because their objectives has been satisfied.
The husband and wife from our example could move towards the wife pushing for a transfer at her office that lets her work in Lagos. That way the family gets enough time together.
Ever felt the need to agree with someone because you don’t want to see them mad at you?
That’s the accommodating conflict management style in action.
In this style, one person gives up their objectives in order to maintain the relationship.
This results in a win-lose situation.
Using the accommodating conflict management style, the husband might decide to sell off the duplex at Ikeja and move to Abeokuta to be with his wife. He will then have to endure the stress from heavy traffic journeying from Lagos to Abeokuta every morning.
Avoiding conflict management style implies withdrawing from a conflict situation.
You basically hide from the conflict situation, ignoring your objectives. While this helps to maintain the relationship with the other person, you have to bury your own objectives just to see the relationship preserved.
An avoiding conflict management style ends in a lose-lose situation, because both persons involved never get what they want.
In our family example, the husband never raises the issue of family time with his wife again. He continues with life as if nothing happened. But every evening after work, he’ll hang out at a strip club drinking and spending time with some weird friends.
Competing conflict management style involves using force, aggression, manipulation and intimidation to achieve your objectives.
In this style, you care less about maintaining relationships or the other person’s objectives, all you care about is your own objectives.
So, you manipulate and get aggressive, just to make the other person come around to your own view.
Competing conflict management style results in a win-lose situation.
Applying a conflict management style, the husband in our example commands the wife to resign immediately and become a stay-at-home wife or lose the marriage.
The CUDSA framework is a 5-step process for conflict resolution. And this framework centers around collaborative conflict resolution.
The CUDSA framework is an acronym for Confront, Understand, Define, Search, and Agree.
This stage involves the parties in a conflict accepting that there’s a conflict. Next step is to agree to a round table where the conflict can be discussed.
To understand means sitting together to clear up disagreements, clarify what each of you want out of the conflict, and tune out negative vibes or bad energy or bad feeling.
At this stage, the parties in a conflict, define the problem in a way that makes sense to all of them. By defining the problem, it becomes easy to find a workable solution.
To search means to go on a finding mission. It’s like a brainstorming session where the parties in a conflict try to find a solution
This is the implementation stage, where you guys try out the best solution from all the possible solutions generated.
Looking to the Future
Conflict is inevitable.
Choosing to ignore its existence only makes us naive.
And use ineffective conflict management style when we are faced with conflicts.
The ways to manage conflict shared in this post can help you manage any form of conflict.
You only need to choose the appropriate style.