Posted by: magnussonllc | June 29, 2011

How to Avoid Unproductive Conflict

We all know people who seem to spend their lives embroiled in conflict. These people probably are doing exactly what they need
to do, given their perceptions of reality.

Conflict can help to clarify issues, strengthen relationships, solve problems, and enrich our lives. However, conflict also can
be unproductive and destructive.

Following these guidelines can help to avoid
unproductive conflict:

  1. Know the difference between your principles and your preferences. Refuse to “sweat the small stuff.”
  2. Test your expectations against reality. When we expect more than others are prepared to give, we run the risk of unwarranted conflict.
  3. Save and spend trust credits. In the give-and-take of human relations, accounts of trust and credibility credits are slowly built up. Everyone in an inequitable relationship feels uneasy. When trust accounts are out of balance, the potential for unproductive conflict increases.
  4. Handle criticism as a live bomb. Our species has not evolved enough to accept criticism gracefully.
  5. Examine your intent before you criticize.
  6. Study the potential recipient’s vulnerability.
  7. Consider modeling the desired change instead. Describe behavior without a value judgment. Wait five minutes; the critical urge may pass. Criticize kindly and constructively.
  8. Practice the power of optimism. Emulate the behavior of cheerful people. Most people with whom you are in conflict want to Stop hurting just as much as you do. When involved in a game of “ain’t it awful,” work to change the focus.
  9. Be aware of personal-growth hazards. Ironically, pursuit of self-knowledge to improve relationships may put us so far “into ourselves” that we lose sensitivity. Examine what is happening; become aware of the responsibilities of living among others.
  10. Recognize day-to-day conflict traps.
  11. Avoid assumptions. The human mind refuses to stay empty in spite of lack of information. Consider what you do when you are unclear about an interpersonal message.
  12. Sensitively anticipate destructive conflict. Avoid incipient conflicts by sharing information and negotiating expectations, by defining roles, and by renegotiating roles as necessary.
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