Applying the preceding information about the five different modes of conflict management, factors affecting models of conflict management, and processes for selecting one or more approaches to conflict involves both self-awareness and an awareness of the others involved in the conflict. In terms of self-awareness, reflecting on the following questions would provide useful information in selecting how to approach a conflict situation.
1. Am I in conflict?
2. With whom am I in conflict?
3. Why am I motivated to resolve the conflict?
4. What conflict mode am I going to use to manage this conflict?
Since conflict involves at least two people, improving awareness of the other party involved in a conflict might also be useful in choosing how to approach a conflict situation. Reflecting on the following questions might improve awareness of the other party involved in a confliction.
1. What is the nature of the conflict, that is, what is the conflict about?
2. What might motivate the other person(s) involved to resolve the conflict?
3. What conflict modes is the other person using?
4. How might I Intervene to resolve/manage the conflict?
Learning more about conflict allows greater intentionality in selecting a conflict response. Most people have set reactions to conflicts. By learning more about principles of conflict, conflict modes, and reflection on the above questions, we can be more intentional in deciding on a conflict response. Greater intentionality will likely lead to more effective conflict management. The following examples provide additional suggestions that individuals might use to improve their conflict management skills.
Individual Reflection Exercise
In addition to reflecting on the preceding questions, Karl Smith6 suggests that the following exercise might provide individuals with valuable information about their perspectives on conflict.
Exercise Write the word "conflict" in the center of a blank piece of paper and draw a circle around it. Quickly jot down all the words and phrases you associate with the word conflict by arranging them around your circle. Review your list of associations and categorize them as positive, negative, or neutral. Count the total number of positive, negative, and neutral associations, and calculate the percentages that are positive, negative, and neutral.
Did you have more than 90% positive? Did you have more than 90% negative?
What do your associations with the word conflict indicate about your views about conflict and your approach to conflict?
Learning About Your Conflict Modes
Review brief descriptions of the five modes and choose your primary conflict mode. Supplementing individual reflection on conflict modes, you might find out more about your modes of conflict using instruments that are available. Karl Smith in his book6 provides a copy of a questionnaire based on the Blake and Mouton conflict model7. Completing the questionnaire, scoring your responses, and reflecting on your answers might provide valuable information about your approaches to conflict. The TKI is a more recent instrument that is based on the Blake and Mouton conflict model and provides information about your conflict modes. Taking the TKI assessment would provide information about your primary conflict modes. Equipped with this information, additional individual reflection would help you to determine your current level of comfort with your conflict resolution styles. Then, you might decide whether you want to make changes.
Creating an Individual Conflict Management Plan
Create a conflict management plan. A conflict management plan is a thought and behavior process one can follow when in conflict. A person creates a list of steps she/he can follow when a conflict comes up so that the person can productively manage/solve the conflict. These steps have to be thoughts or behaviors that can be realistically done. The literature shows that if we can identify we are in conflict and can then implement a conflict management plan, our opportunity for resolution of the conflict increases significantly. We identify we are in conflict by identifying our physiological responses when in conflict and by identifying thoughts and feelings we are having that trigger us to realize that we are experiencing a conflict. There are three steps to making a conflict plan. First, write down what physiological responses you have when you know you are in conflict (e.g., my palms are sweaty, my heart is racing). Second, write down what thoughts you typically have when in a conflict (e.g., “I want to hurt him”; “I want to just get away from her”). Finally, list 4–8 steps you can follow to help you manage your thoughts and emotions in a productive way to manage/solve your conflict (e.g., 1. I will take a deep breath; 2. I will think about how I want to respond, etc.). Refer to Algert and Watson8 to learn more about creating a conflict management plan.
Improving listening skills is one approach to improving conflict management skills. Eugene Raudsepp states that “Studies show, however, that only about 10% of us listen properly.”9 Read the article by Raudsepp9, take the listening quiz, and develop an action plan for improving your listening skills.
Suggestions for Further Activities
The book 50 Activities for Conflict Resolution10 contains 25 activities for self-development on conflict. Activities include “The Role of Values in Conflict Resolution,” “Resolving Conflict through Planning,” “Evaluating Your Conflict Resolution Skills,” and “Uncovering the Hidden Agenda."