In a Change Journey, conflicts are inevitable. Why is that so? Because all people have different needs, concerns and circumstances, and consequently when they are faced with imposed change, they react emotionally. Every person has the natural skills to deal with conflicts but when we are involved, we face problems to dissociate from our opinion - we believe that our opinions are beased on facts and that they are the universal truth.
We need to accept the fact that conflict is part of any change journey but we don't want conflict into a mutiny. What is conflict actually? In most cases, comflict arises from perceived incompatible differences resulting in
* open or hidden resistance
Reasons for conflict in change processes might be the perceived loss of control over systems, different views on people's engagement and performance in the process, conflicting goals, changing roles and responsibilities, and many other grievances. For more, see the following chart from newresolution.org
When two persons, or a team gets into a conflict, the first thing they have to acknowledge is that they are in a downward spiral that leads to further disagreement, defenece and distraction of value. A simple sentence like "Hey, we are heading down the drain in a never ending conflict! Let us stop for a second and agree that we disagree"
can interrupt the viscious cycle and help to cool down emotions.
There are many different tools and techniques to deal with conflict in teams and organizations and many of them go back to a few original models:
* Transactional Analysis ("We should behave as adults when in conflict")
* Theme Centered Interaction ("There is always an I, a We and an It we need to take care of.")
* Worldwork ("There are different layers of common and individual consciousness which might not be in harmony.")
What happens if we do not address conflict is obvious: we enter into a cycle of waste which gets larger every time we go into an encounter. Looking for facts and for common purpose might be a starter to get out of the downward spiral.
For more insight on conflict resolution read the seminal paper of Chris Spies:
Resolutionary Change: The Art of Awakening Dormant Faculties in Others (PDF)
Here are Chris' key assumptions:
1. Conflict is a necessary and inevitable dynamic in all human relationships.
2. Conflict transformation is a skill and an art.
3. Resolutionary change is as much a matter of attitude as it is of knowledge and skills.
4. It is possible to design and facilitate safe spaces that build mediative capacity.
5. There is no substitute for local ownership.
6. Change is in the first place (but not only) a personal or individual matter.
7. People in conflict, if given an opportunity and support, have a great deal of resilience and dormant faculties.
8. Process is as important as outcome.
Questions for Deeper Exploration
- What is actually happening right now?
- What are the deeper patterns of our conflicts?
- What kind of energy are we getting out of the tension (destructive or constructive)?
- What rituals can we establish that help us to get out of a destructive spiral?