Conflict management

Although conflicts can often trigger unpleasant feelings, there is also great opportunity and potential to be had in them. They can frequently be traced back to unmet needs or hurt feelings. With the help of conflict management methods, these causes can be identified in an empathetic manner, and conflicts can be resolved in a goal-oriented and sustainable way.

At what point does one speak of a conflict?

several people sitting in a team meeting

Conflicts are a part of our working and private lives. About two thirds of the German population regularly experience conflicts in their immediate environment. Studies on conflicts in the workplace also show that on average 15% of working time in German companies is spent on conflict management. But at what point does one speak of a conflict? Conflict researcher Friedrich Glasl defines a conflict as an interaction between two or more participants in which at least one of the persons involved experiences incompatibilities and feels affected by them. There are various signs that can indicate a conflict, such as a tense and irritable atmosphere or the formation of cliques.  

Whatever we do is the best thing available to us at any particular moment to meet our needs.
Marshall B. Rosenberg

What opportunities do conflicts offer?

Conflicts are often seen as something negative because they usually trigger unpleasant feelings on an emotional level. For those involved, conflicts can be stressful and energy-draining, which is why open discussion or confrontation is avoided. However, conflicts also offer a great opportunity and the potential to learn. 

1. Conflicts make us aware of problems

Conflicts make us aware of where there are challenges or a need for clarification and help us to understand what we can do ourselves to deal with these situations.

2. Conflicts strengthen the will to change

Conflicts challenge those involved to try out new ways of behaving or dealing with things, or to review old attitudes, habits and convictions. They make it clear that something has to be changed.

3. Conflicts create the necessary pressure

Without tangible pressure, there is often a lack of drive and determination to tackle explosive issues and actively address problems.

4. Conflicts deepen interpersonal relationships

Conflicts allow us to get to know ourselves and others better. Through conflict, we learn what annoys us, hurts us, makes us uncomfortable, what is important to us and how we react when others compete with us, for example.

5. Conflicts strengthen cohesion

Crises that have been overcome bring us closer together. The inevitable friction in daily cooperation is de-dramatised and objectified.

6. Conflicts provide an impetus to the deepening of skills and knowledge

The views of the other side, which might be difficult to understand at first, spark an interest in getting to the bottom of the matter, which, in turn, can lead to new insights.

7. Conflicts promote creativity

The participants come to understand that a problem or a situation can be seen and evaluated in very different ways. Looking at it from a different angle deepens understanding of the problem and increases the chances of finding a new and creative solution.

8. Conflicts lead to better decisions

Differences of opinion and disputes force us to think through a decision carefully, to weigh up conflicting alternatives and only then to decide on a solution.

9. Conflicts promote personal development

In order to deal with a conflict constructively, one must first transcend one's own point of view. Putting oneself in the other person's shoes and seeing things from their perspective strengthens empathy, the ability to cooperate and creativity, and contributes to the development of relationships based on mutual respect.

Non-violent communication as a method of dealing with conflict situations

As soon as tensions or other indications of conflict are perceived, they should be responded to. Marshall B. Rosenberg’s four steps of non-violent communication provide a helpful approach to dealing with everyday communication, and conflict situations and to preparing for conflict resolution, being based on empathetic and respectful communication.  

a magnifying glass with a person
Describe your observations
Describe the concrete situation or action objectively and without judgement. What did you perceive?
Express your feelings
Your observations trigger a feeling in you. Feelings are an indication of whether or not a need is being met. Express what you feel in this situation.
Heart over one hand
Stating your needs
State the need that your feeling points to. Talk about what you need and what is being fulfilled or not being fulfilled at this moment. These can be needs such as safety, relaxation, harmony, creativity, security or self-determination.
Letter with question
Formulate a request or wish
Formulate a concrete request or wish. The point is to name a concrete action that is realistic, achievable and feasible at this moment. 

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