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Repairing Relationships: How to Handle Conflict with Friends

FriendConflictClipartConflict really is inevitable in our lives. Whether it is with a neighbor or a coworker, conflicts of any size can easily arise. I am reminded of that fact, when I found myself recently in an unexpected conflict with my roommate. I have lived with the same student for almost three years now, and we have been friends even longer. The two of us have similar interests, get along pretty well and have not experienced any major conflicts over the past years as roommates. There have obviously been minor conflicts and verbal disagreements, but never anything serious or prolonged.

A couple of weeks ago my roommate asked me to pick up a prescription from the store. I went to the store, but it was too late, and the pharmacy had already closed. The next day I texted my roommate and told him that I would be able to go to the store after my class, but that I was really busy. He replied and asked for some apple sauce. I went to the store and was waiting to pick up his prescription, but the pharmacist repeated there was nothing in the system with my roommate’s name. After texting my roommate and waiting in the store for a while, I received a reply from him saying that he already picked it up earlier. I got upset that he did not let me know, and I had been waiting in the store the whole time for no reason. Due to an already stressful day, I got home and started arguing with him. After a few pointless insults had been thrown back and forth, he went into his room, and we did not talk for a couple of days.

I was upset that he did not communicate with me, and he did not seem to care that I unnecessarily went to the store and waited for a prescription that was not there. In contrast, he was upset by the way I reacted to the situation. After a few more days, we eventually started to talk to each other, and both agreed to sort things out. I apologized for entering the situation so angrily and starting the heated argument. In the end, it came down to a simple miscommunication. When I texted him about going to the store after class, my roommate interpreted that I was simply going to the store and not specifically for his prescription. Misinterpretations like this often lead to misunderstandings, lack of communication and often to snap judgments and angry reactions.

It is interesting how conflicts can easily arise between friends and even family members. After letting the conflict with my roommate settle, we started to communicate again and eventually resolved the conflict. An article in the Huffington Post, written by Rory Vaden, discusses some Rules of Relationship Conflict Resolution that can be helpful when dealing with conflict between friends. The first rule draws attention to not yelling and escalating the emotional aspect of the conflict. When one person begins the screaming match, it is common for the other individual to return the aggression, and this just delays any chance of resolution. The next rule stresses the fact that we should always remind the other individual that we want to resolve the issue and that we care about them. If you are arguing with the other person, it is important to remind each other of the major goals of finding a solution to the issue. The third rule states the importance of being able to accept that you may have a made a mistake even though you do not believe you did. This rule may be difficult for some people to implement because it is hard to admit mistakes and accept responsibility for your part of the problem. Still, if another person is clearly angry at you, there is a good chance that you played some role, however small, in that conflict.

Finally, I feel like the most important rule in the article focuses on striving to be the first to apologize when a conflict arises. Even though this may seem like you are admitting fault to the issue, you are taking a crucial step by opening communication and allowing for the conflict to be resolved. Ultimately, it is not about who is right, but rather focuses on the right way for us to solve this conflict.

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution

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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.

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The Conflict Paradox – Avoiding It Creates It

approach-avoidance-conflict

Conflicts play a fundamental role in human interactions whether with your closest friends, at home with your family or even in the work environment. We have all experienced conflict in our lives and yet each of us views conflict very differently. Different perspectives and situations actively shape the way we deal with conflict. There are many unique and personal definitions. In order to understand these varying views and perceptions, I decided to interview a few members of the community. I asked them what they thought conflict was and what it meant to them.

“Conflict is something that causes an unprecedented problem and makes for hard decisions. It means that people aren’t on the same page and have different views, beliefs or cultures.”

“Conflict, for me, is a serious argument that has the potential to escalate into something more violent.”

“To me, conflict is when a disagreement or obstacle gets in the way of something you are trying to achieve.”

“Conflict, to me, is when two or more parties have some type of disagreement that needs to be resolved through a type of negotiation. I think the spectrum level could run from something minor to a full out war.”

“Conflict is part of my daily life at work, as well as in my private life. It’s needed to work out problems, but I personally like to avoid it.”

It is quite easy to see the different ways that the interviewees understand and define conflict in their lives. While one individual sees conflict as an issue of views, beliefs or cultures, another interviewee feels that the conflict is a path towards violence. Similar to the diverse ways to comprehend and define conflict, individuals choose to manage their conflicts in different ways. During my freshman year at Salisbury University, I lived in the on-campus dorms. Over the course of the semester, I started to notice that I got ready at the same time as the student who lived next door to me. We exchanged a few words every morning through some groggy mumbling. After some time though, we talked to each other more frequently and started to have real conversations. However, to my surprise, he decided to ignore me one day. He stopped greeting me in the morning and we did not talk to each other at all. Feeling like I had done something wrong, I decided to stay quiet and let him be. A couple of weeks went by with us silently brushing our teeth next to each other. I started getting frustrated and tried not to care. We barely had any communication until the end of that year when he overheard me talking to his roommate about the situation. Upset by the fact that I was blaming the awkward silence on him, he decided to express how he felt. I learned that he was feeling the same way as me and was confused when I stopped talking to him one day. Both of us spent an entire year not talking to each other because we thought some conflict existed between us. In reality, by us avoiding the situation, we created the conflict.

Our views of conflict impact how we engage in perceived conflict. There are many different ways to manage conflicts. Avoidance is a common method and even one of the interviewees stressed the fact that they would rather avoid conflicts than engage in them. In an online resource titled The Five Conflict Styles, the author, Burrell, discusses how avoidance can be both beneficial and detrimental to a conflict. In some cases, such as when tensions are high in a conflict, avoidance can be beneficial to de-escalate the situation. However, avoidance often means that you hold on to all your discomforts, and since this is counter-productive, it allows for problems to linger unmanaged. Many of us who consistently choose to avoid conflict sometimes fear potential outcomes. Maybe you have had negative encounters in the past when addressing conflicts, and, therefore, you would rather avoid conflict entirely. By staying silent and directly ignoring your needs, as well as the other party’s needs, the conflict does not get managed effectively. That being said, additional conflict styles identified by Ralph Kilmann and Ken Thomas, are Accommodating, Collaborating, Competing, and Compromising. Each style when used appropriately can assist you in engaging in conflict productively.

Check out this previous blog post to learn more about the conflict styles!

Also, if you are not sure entirely sure which conflict style you rely most on, check out the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument to help determine your behavior in conflict.

 

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution

 

Reference:

Burrell, Bonnie. “The Five Conflict Styles.” Conflict Management. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

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Rushing Through Conflict – Slow Down with Critical Thinking

the concept of the functioning of the human body and the brainConflicts are an inevitable part of any social interaction. Regardless of the situation or parties involved, conflicts that are not managed constructively can be damaging. One valuable strategy that helps resolve conflicts more efficiently is critical thinking. By looking at a conflict objectively and analyzing the situation from an outside perspective, an individual can essentially remove themselves from the conflict in order to gain a better understanding of it. Critical thinking also allows for an individual to look at the conflict from different angles for a more complete image. While critical thinking does support conflict resolution, there are notable interferences that can impact it effectiveness. In Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking, M. Neil Browne and Stuart M. Keeley call these various interferences “speed bumps” because they exist regardless of you knowing about them. Even when you are mindful of these interferences they continue to impact your critical thinking resulting in less than effective results. Below are some examples of these speed bumps.

The first “speed bump” discussed in their book is the discomfort of asking the right questions. Browne and Keely stress the importance of knowing that not everyone is comfortable being asked critical questions especially if it challenges their arguments or beliefs. While asking certain questions can help individuals understand the views of others, being too persistent or aggressive with the questioning can be offensive to some and might even lead to damaged relationships. The individual that is being questioned can feel threatened or uncomfortable since they might not be used to having their views directly challenged. The next important “speed bump” to pay attention to is thinking too quickly. The book briefly addresses the concept of “fast thinking”, which focuses on speedy and instinctive decision making. When an individual is “fast thinking” they make rash decisions that might have negative consequences. On the other hand, “slow thinking” relies more on making accurate and evaluative judgments. In order to understand another person’s perspective and the conflict overall, “slow thinking” is a valuable skill to evaluate the information being presented by the other side in order to make effective decisions. Stereotypes are another “speed bump” that prevents functional critical thinking. They are dangerous because they come into play before an individual has even approached a situation. By assigning perceived characteristics to various identities, one joins a conflict with preliminary views. Stereotypes are detrimental to resolving conflicts because these biases alter rational judgment and reasoning

Browne and Keeley identified mental habits as other aspects that hinder the performance of critical thinking. These habits blur reality and can influence judgments greatly. It is important to be aware of them in order to prevent them from occurring. The first habit discussed in the book is called the halo effect. This mental habit occurs when an individual identifies a positive or negative characteristic about another person and then concludes that all their traits are either positive or negative. An example of this is if someone were to assume that a successful banker was equally successful in all other aspects of life. Another example of the halo effect would be to assume that someone who has committed a petty crime in the past is negative in all other aspects of their life as well. This mental habit is dangerous because it can distort the other party’s image, assign a broad “good” or “bad” status to a person and ultimately affect conflict resolution. A further mental “speed bump” discussed in the book is wishful thinking. This deals with the interweaving of what one wishes to be true and what is actually declared as truth. This becomes really dangerous when one forces facts to fit to beliefs instead of fitting beliefs to facts. For example, you feel strongly that a friend has taken something from you, but you do not have any evidence. If you convince yourself enough that he took something, you will actually start believing it as truth. Browne and Keeley state that “once we recognize this tendency in ourselves, we need to keep asking, is that true because I want it to be true, or is there convincing evidence that it’s true?” (Browne and Keeley, page 20) This aspect can be emphasized by the common expression “I just know”. Even with lacking evidence, many individuals are able to create truths out of their beliefs, which is detrimental to resolving conflicts. Critical thinking is an effective tool to analyze and resolve conflicts. Regardless of experience, critical thinking “speed bumps” are present in all individuals and play a role in our conclusions. While they cannot always be ignored, these “speed bumps” can be acknowledged and managed for successful conflict resolution to occur.

 

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution

 

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