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The Power is YOURS

When parties are involved in conflict knowledge is power. You may ask, what do I mean by that? By being aware of the various resources and tools that are available, I am better equip to navigate through the conflict process. In my previous blog, Conflict is an Opportunity I addressed the three stages of conflict: before, during, and after. I discussed a conflict that I had with a colleague regarding an e-mail correspondence that was not received well. Although it was resolved, what would have happened if it did not reach a resolution? What if we started harboring resentment and acting out our frustrations? Perhaps the other party goes to human resources and complains that now they are in a hostile work environment and the conflict escalates from there.You have options

An option to prevent this negative conflict spiral is to try Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). ADR offers various techniques for resolving conflict outside of legal action. A form of ADR that may be appropriate for my e-mail dispute is mediation. The mediation process involves two or more parties, who meet with a third party that has no stake in the outcome of the mediation. They are neutral or impartial to the conflict.  During the mediation process, the mediator is overseeing the conversation between myself and my co-worker to enable us to better communicate, understand one another, and help us identify our interests and options for resolving the dispute.

There are various resources available to try mediation. Some organizations have mediation programs to mediate workplace conflicts, and some communities have community mediation centers that offer mediation to local residents. You may also locate a private practitioner by using this search directory.

If you are interested in trying mediation or are curious about what questions to  ask a potential mediator listen to the Texas Conflict Coach® podcast by Louise Phipps Senft from Louise Phipps Senft and Associates, and founder of the Baltimore Mediation Center.  You may also listen to the podcast by Cordell Wesselink. Wesselink is the ADR Programs Director from Community Boards, the oldest community mediation center in the country.  If you have an unresolved conflict that is festering, I encourage you to try ADR.

By Tracy Culbreath

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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Conflict is an Opportunity

Conflicts are comprised of three stages: before, during, and after. Before conflict you are deciding what to say, seething about what just happened, or maybe you are unaware there is a problem. The phrase “Ignorance is bliss” doesn’t apply here. Being blindsided by conflict is no picnic, but it happens.  I recently found myself in that uncomfortable scenario when an e-mail message was interpreted in a way that I did not attend. refectionThe person on the other end of the e-mail did not appreciate the tone of the e-mail that I had sent. I thought the message was friendly and warm, they perceived it to be aloof and cold. I had no time to think of an appropriate response when confronted about the e-mail. I was instantly defensive and annoyed they completely misunderstood what I thought was clear. My annoyance came out when I was asked why I was raising my voice. I had no idea I was raising my voice.

Self-awareness is the ability to be aware of one’s own personality and character in the moment. At that present moment, I was not aware I was raising my voice. When people are engaged in conflict, self-awareness is low. But after conflict, tempers and emotions have settled creating an opportunity to learn. With the right tools and strategies, you can turn conflict into a learning opportunity. Reflective practice involves learning from your own experiences. In 1988, Graham Gibbs, illustrated a reflective cycle in his book Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods that consisted of six stages:

1. Description – What happened during the conflict?

2. Feeling – What were you thinking and/or feeling during the conflict?

3. Evaluation – What was good and/or bad about the conflict interaction?

4. Analysis – What was your perception of the conflict?

5. Conclusions – What else could have been done?

6. Action – What would you do if it happened again?

Journaling and talking through the conflict interactions can be another way to learn from your conflict interaction. After your next conflict try this: Take a deep breath (consciously taking a breather can calm your nerves and keep you grounded), grab a journal, your laptop, or even a friend and go through Gibbs reflective cycle. You will be surprised at what you learn.

By Tracy Culbreath

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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