How to Manage Conflict Through Communication

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Communication is essential to manage conflict.
Communication is essential to manage conflict. (Image: familiy conflict image by Vasiliy Koval from Fotolia.com)

Conflict management is not the same thing as conflict resolution. Conflict stems from disagreement between two or more people, so in order to resolve the conflict entirely, one or more of them must change their views. You can, however, work on managing conflict through better communication. In the business world or in a personal relationship such as marriage, communication can help you understand the source of the conflict and address the needs and views of all parties involved.

Create a healthy environment that encourages communication. Express your willingness to listen to and consider feedback and criticism. In an employer-employee relationship, create policies to ensure that employees can express concerns without the fear of retaliation.

Establish rules for communication. Make it clear that you will not tolerate abusive language or personal attacks.

State your views, issues and expectations clearly and specifically. Don't just say, "You need to work harder." Explain exactly what is wrong and how things need to get done.

Use "I statements." Don't say, "You make me angry." Say, "When you do this in that way, I feel angry." "I statements" allow you to state your feelings and examine the specific problem without putting the other person on the defensive.

Address behaviors, not personalities. For example, don't accuse someone of being too self-centered; tell her that you or your department need her help and support. People are more open to suggestions about their behavior than attacks on their personality traits.

Listen to what other people have to say. Respond to their feedback or complaints with specific question or thoughts. It's not enough to just listen unless people really believe that you're listening and will actually do something to address the conflict.

Pay attention to changes in interpersonal interactions, so you can address conflict even if other people don't communicate. For example, if someone who normally expresses himself easily becomes quiet, there may be a problem he feels uncomfortable addressing. Initiate communication yourself if you sense a possible conflict.

Involve a third party if necessary, such as a mediator or a relationship counselor. A third party trained in conflict management can help you examine the issues from a fresh perspective, and people involved in the conflict may be more open to suggestions from an outside voice.

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