Login | Contact

Confront or Not to Confront, that is the Question! An Analysis of When to Avoid Conflict

conflict-405744_1280I ran into a dilemma this week with a friend; I will call her Layla. I found out Layla told another friend of mine, will call him David, that I said something when I didn’t. The dilemma arose when I told my husband about the incident because I, being a non-avoider, wanted to confront her, while my husband, an avoider, thought I should let it go. My husband and I then began our on-going debate about whether avoidance is a good or bad thing in conflict.

I know from my conflict resolution education and research that the avoidance as a conflict approach is applicable in certain situations. Dale Eilerman contributor to Mediate.com cites several examples of when avoidance is okay, such as when the conflict is minor and bringing it up could affect the relationship negatively, when you want to give yourself time and space to think about a situation, or when you need to reduce angry emotions.

I have always struggled with being conflict avoidant because my default setting is to confront the situation head-on. It is challenging to ignore my feelings and let things go. My solution for most conflict is to address it … now! I have always believed that if conflict is allowed to linger, it can cause detrimental effects. So when addressing my concern to my husband, he raised a good question. If I addressed the conflict, what would it solve?

My friend, David, was not upset with me even though he might have misinterpreted what Layla told him. David also has a reputation for misunderstanding other’s information. If I confronted Layla about David’s retelling of the story, she could get upset with David for saying something to me. Finally, there was a chance that if I confronted Layla, another conflict avoider, whether she said it or not she would deny the conversation and not want to discuss it with me.

I countered my husband’s question with what could happen if I didn’t address the conflict. I felt hurt and angered by the communication. I felt my reputation with David was compromised and I needed to understand the what and why of Layla’s conversation. Did she lie? What motivated her to say that to David? If I didn’t confront Layla, those feelings would not be addressed and I could build resentment towards her.

Ultimately, I made the decision not to confront. I did so because Layla had never done anything like this before and I felt that if I confronted her it could create more conflict, not just between her and I, but she and David. So what do I do about my feelings? When you don’t acknowledge your emotions and they go unresolved resentment slowly simmers and builds. It took me a long time to learn but I could let go of my anger. I needed to recognize the anger and the motivation to confront Layla. I wanted to clear my reputation and I wanted to protect relationships too. I really had to analyze for myself and my friendships what action to take: confront or not to confront.

If you find yourself in a conflict and can’t decide whether to avoid or confront ask yourself these questions:

  1. What would get solved by addressing this conflict?
  2. What further problems could result if you addressed this conflict?
  3. What would be the advantages if you chose to avoid?
  4. If I don’t acknowledge negative feelings towards another person will it build resentment or further distance your relationship?

Conflict avoidance is a strategy and a choice to deescalate a situation or minimize negative emotions. Consistently choosing to avoid conflict because of the discomfort of addressing emotions can lead to resentment; anger and retaliation. Analyzing whether to confront or avoid is no easy task. It takes forethought to decide how it will impact relationships or outcomes. Which will you choose?

 

Abigail R. C. McManus M. S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

Leave a Reply


Mediation: A vital tool for HR Professionals

John FordConflict in the workplace is inevitable, but Toxic, difficult workplaces are not. Mediation is a tool that can help. And sadly, most HR professionals don’t know this. They think mediation is not for them, when in fact they are effectively mediating all the time. Come learn why mediation is vital for your career and also your workplace!

Read, Listen, Share »

Leave a Reply


Conflict in Cross Cultural Groups: Lessons to Prevent and Manage It

crossculturalclipartModern technology and various transportation options have allowed for the cooperation of people across the world. Specifically in today’s work environment, employees are now working internationally with many different individuals and in some cases these people differ in age, gender, race, language, culture or nationality. In the article, Cross Cultural Conflict Resolution in Teams, John Ford goes into detail about the difficulties of international teamwork and also offers some lessons to prevent and manage conflict in situations that require teamwork.

Ford states that conflict is a major contributor to failure in groups. It is important to be mindful of the fact that various cultures react to conflict in different ways. One example of these cultural differences is communication styles. Communication in a group can either be expressive or restrained. While some cultures might focus on eye contact and physical touch, others might be less interested in physical touch and dodge eye contact. Furthermore, communication differences in relationships and level of directness can be seen throughout many cultures. In some cultures it is important to be direct and get to the point. Individuals from this type of culture would probably be upset by people who dodge the relevant questions and instead focus on personal matters. In contrast, the people from the second culture, who prefer addressing personal matters first, might be offended by the directness or aggressiveness of the individuals from the first culture. That being said, in the second culture it could be the norm to create a relationship with peers before tackling a project.

Ford goes on to explain that varying communication styles are not the direct cause of conflict. Instead, conflict can arise when judgments are made due to the different styles. He uses an example of a team member who strongly and loudly expresses opinions on subjects. An individual from a less vocal culture may see this behavior as arrogant or even rude. On the other hand, the individual with the strong opinion might deem the timid team member untrustworthy because he or she is quiet and does not hold eye contact. Variances in communication styles are only one example of the many differences between cultures that could cause conflict.

When working with a diverse group of people, it is important to be patient and mindful of any differences. Ford provides seven lessons to help foster better teamwork between unique individuals. The first lesson he mentions involves knowing yourself and your own culture. It is important and valuable to understand yourself and your own culture so that you can compare other cultures more effectively. The second lesson states the importance of learning the culture of the other individuals. Since cultures are dynamic, it is nearly impossible to fully understand them without experiencing them first hand. However, studying a culture by reading literature or watching films can still help prepare you for cooperation. The third lesson is called “check your assumptions”. In this section, Ford stresses the dangers of assumptions. It is important to stay open-minded and seek different interpretations to situations. Inaccurate assumptions or false judgments often lead to negative stereotypes.

The next lesson suggests focusing on asking questions instead of assuming that you know and understand a foreign culture. Asking questions not only shows respect, but it can also prevent conflicts by providing clarification. In the next lesson Ford suggests simply listening as an important tool for conflict prevention. Listening can provide a lot of valuable information about a foreign culture. The sixth step encourages you to consider the platinum rule. While somewhat similar to the “golden rule”, the platinum rule says to treat your team members how they would like to be treated rather than how we would like to be treated. Ford’s final lesson is about the fact that culture is so diverse and spread out. Therefore, instead of learning specific strategies for cross cultural conflicts, it would be more beneficial for us to assume that all our conversations deal with different cultures. We can utilize the lessons provided by Ford in our own lives every day.

 

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution

 

Reference:

Ford, John. “Cross Cultural Conflict Resolution in Teams.” Mediate.com. Oct. 2001. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

Leave a Reply


Sharing the Blame Game- Take Ownership Now

blamegameIn my first semester at University of Baltimore we were assigned a book to read called Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. The book provides a step-by-step approach to working through difficult conversations. The entire book was fantastic, but one particular section was eye opening for me. The chapter discusses how people need to stop blaming others and instead assess how they have contributed to the conflict. Stone, Patton, and Heen urge readers to ask themselves, “how did I contribute to this problem?” At this time in my life I was involved in a conflict with a friend and I was not taking any responsibility for my actions. It was a huge breakthrough for me because I realized how often we blame others for the conflicts we face; we abandon ownership of our problems, but why? Perhaps because it is easier to throw up our hands and say, “I didn’t do anything wrong”, but this does not resolve conflicts, if anything it prolongs them.

In any conflict you face, whether with a significant other, boss, or friend begin by taking a step back and asking yourself “How did I contribute to this problem?” Dr. Patty Ann Tublin a contributor to Entrepreneurial Woman explains, “Conflict in our relationships cannot be created in a vacuum. At least two people are responsible for it when it enters our lives. Regardless of whether you started the conflict or you are allowing it to perpetuate, you have some personal responsibility for its presence in your relationship.” Maybe your husband forgot to stop and pick up the items you requested for dinner at the store, he gets home and this starts a fight because now you have nothing to make for dinner. Ask yourself what you could have done differently? Maybe you could have sent a reminder to him so he wouldn’t forget. Even small squabbles such as this can build resentment, if both parties do not take ownership.

Why do people avoid taking responsibility?

In an excerpt from Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith’s book, The Art of Waking People Up: Cultivating Awareness and Authenticity at Work found on Mediate.com they explain that, “everyone in conflict tells a story in which they are right and the other person is wrong.” Cloke and Goldsmith suggests that, “These accusatory, self-serving stories are designed to disguise and divert attention from the role they play in keeping the conflict going, and reinforce their defenses, justifications, countermeasures, and irreconcilable positions.” Stone, Patton and Sheen point out “The urge to blame is based, quite literally, on a misunderstanding of what has given rise to the issues between you and the other person, and on the fear of being blamed.” People are not fond of admitting to their shortcomings. But the fact of the matter is, we are all human and we all make mistakes. It is easier to point the finger at someone else when things go wrong. And it takes courage and strength to own up to your part in any given issue and in doing so, it assists you and the person your in conflict with move forward.

Why is taking ownership important?

Jeff Durham a contributor to Life Coach Expert points out, “ taking responsibility for our actions equals success. It also makes us feel good about ourselves and rids us of negative personality traits such as anger, fear, resentment, hostility and doubt.” It is essential to recognize your contribution to the conflict in order to move towards resolution. The other person in the conflict becomes more open to listening allowing both parties to see and understand why the conflict occurred, what improvements you need to make and how to prevent the problem from happening again. So, the next time you find yourself attacking or blaming others, stop, think and ask yourself “What did I do or say, however small, that contributed to the problem?” Refrain from justifications such as “I wouldn’t have done X, if they had not done Y.” And then, own it.

 

Abigail Clark

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

Leave a Reply


Is Fairly Legal Fairly Relevant? – Part 2

  The USA show “Fairly Legal” is stirring up the mediation field. Whether you think it is a travesty of the professional mediation field, or the best thing that’s happened to mediation since the book Getting to Yes, the fact is this show is pushing our buttons. Let’s take a closer look at how this show is portraying mediators, what’s true, what isn’t, and what we wish were true. This series is NOT a documentary but an entertainment show. We want to take the opportunity to educate the public by pointing out the fiction and highlighting the facts about what mediator’s really do in their practices and how mediation can be a very viable resource to resolving conflict between parties.

My guest co-host, Zena Zumeta will lead a discussion with me Clare Fowler , Rita Callahan and Jeff Thompson.

Read, Listen, Share »

Leave a Reply




  • Podcast Library

  • Subscribe by Email

    Join our mailing list to receive our newsletter and blogs!

  • Recent Posts