Conflict Analysis and Prevention

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„Conflicts develop where people are in contact. Because contact includes always the risk to exceed another person's limit. Conflict means crossing a border. However, conflict prevention might easily lead as well to contact prevention." A. Foitzik; p. 16

Althoug in a training participants and facilitators talk about common principles and rules for the communication among each other, it is normal, that conflicts pop up.

Conflicts include not only differences or disagreement. They 
consist additionally of actions that affect other persons negatively.

In conflict situations facilitators have the responsibility to identify conflicts and to react in an appropriate way.

[edit] Reflecting Conflict Behavior

Christopher Moore distinguishes between five sources of conflicts, which might be a good model to introduce conflict management in your training

Conflict Sources
Conflicts within a relationship
Informational conflicts
Interest conflicts
Structural conflicts
Value conflicts

Find a more detailed description here: Conflict sources

From concrete trainings we took these examples:

Conflict sources in trainings
  • Different values
  • Different interpretations of (social) roles
  • No common agreement about hierarchies or decision-making styles
  • Language dominance: Less skilled people feel discriminated
  • Lack of material or time resources
  • Different forms and intensitiy of appreciation
  • Misunderstandings
  • Different expectations, interests, or needs
  • Body aspects: different experience of closeness/distance, style of clothing
  • Feelings, relation problems: imbalanced emotions
  • Personal mood
  • Different knowledge and experience

[edit] Strategies for Conflict Management

A very common strategy in such conflict situations is ignoring, or escaping. Both are in some situations handy and appropriate solutions. On the other hand, in other situations these stategies lead to an escalation and when a conflict escalates, solutions become more difficult, or the costs of conbflicts increase. Therefore in most cases, an early intervention through facilitators is important.

We distinguish between four ways of managing conflicts:

Escape One or both parties escape and stop the interaction.
Avoidance One of the parties tries to avoid the conflictary situations.
Dominance One party or a third party decides by setting a rule or making a decision.
Compromise The conflict will be rationalized and solved in a form that all parties do not feel negatively affected anymore.

[edit] Criteria for Solutions

Like above shown, there is nothing such like a best solution for all conflicts. We disagree with generalizing statements like: "the only way to solve conflicts is to talk about the problem." Because we know situations in which a very defensive or a dominant solution might be more appropriate. Furthermore, necessary for dealing with conflicts in a dialogue way is the double-sided interest, which is not always the case. On what ground we might decide about the appropriate conflict management strategy? These criteria might help us to decide about the right solution strategy:

Sustainability How sustainable might be the solution?
Prevention Does it feasably prevent further, new conflicts?
Limitation Might it hedge the conflict?
Efficiency Might the solution be effective in terms of balancing time effort,
personal involvement and quality of the solution?
Fairness Might the outcome be fair?
Acceptance To what extent might the involved people be satisfied with the result?

[edit] What you might do as a trainer

Examples for conflict management activities in a training:

Deescalation of hot conflicts Escalation of cold conflicts
  • Addressing concrete problems
  • Confrontation meetings - to prevent, that a hot conflict becomes too fast cold
  • Reconstruction and clarification of the conflict genesis
  • Parties explain and rationalize their different behaviors and perceptions
  • Mediation
  • Separated talks with each party
  • Dramatizing existing cold conflicts through simulations
  • Encouraging a client to fight more intensive for his or her point of view

[edit] A first step into a solution

Leading questions for starting a solution process could be:

Conflict Analysis
How did the conflict develop? What do you do in a conflictary situation?
Who is involved? What makes the other people act like they do?
What is the essential in this conflict? And what not?
What feelings do you have with this situation?
What would you like to know about the other person?
What do you appreciate in the other person?
What should be changed to bring the conflict more towards a solution?
Which expectations do you have regarding the other person?
Which alternatives do exist for you?
What prevents you to tell these to the other people? What do you need, that this becomes possible?

[edit] Source

  • Bildungsziel: Bürger - Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg
  • Andreas Foitzik: Konflikte in interkulturellen Gruppen - Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg
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