Eight steps to effective conflict management

Conflict is a regular part of life. How you handle conflict affects the outcome of your negotiations, your business relationships and your organization's reputation. Dealing with conflict in constructive ways will help you maintain and enhance business productivity and achieve professional results in a fair, open and transparent manner.

1. Be aware

Conflict can arise at any time. Knowing this enables you to take steps to effective conflict management. Approaching conflict as a normal occurrence helps you to turn potential disagreements into clear communication and improved processes.

2. Be proactive

Prevention and early resolution are the most effective. When issues arise, listen and reflect on what is happening. Consider how you can address difficult issues before they escalate to conflict.

3. Seek to understand all sides of the issue

There is always more than one way to interpret a situation. Reflect on what this issue means to you, to the others involved, and what is at stake for everyone.

4. Initiate dialogue

Initiate dialogue by listening and asking questions. This will help you gain a greater understanding of what is hindering progress, and will help you better address the central issue.

5. Know when to ask for help

Enlisting the help of a neutral third party can assist you to clarify communication and prevent conflict escalation. When early awareness and response measures uncover issues that need greater attention, consult others, including a conflict management practitioner for assistance.

6. Assess your options

There are a variety of ways to handle conflict, such as negotiation, conflict coaching, facilitated discussions, mediation, arbitration and litigation. A conflict management practitioner can help you assess your options so you can decide the best possible way to manage the situation.

7. Take action

Use your knowledge and resources to take action. This could mean developing or fine tuning your conflict management skills through conflict coaching, taking time to prepare for a difficult meeting, or preparing for a facilitated discussion.

8. Reflect on the situation

Reflecting on the situation is a key element in maintaining and enhancing productivity. What have you learned? What has this situation shown you about yourself, others, and/or procedures? What can you change in the future to prevent similar situations?

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