Conflict Management

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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In just the past decade or so, the area of conflict management has evolved into its own specialized field of expertise. Where, formerly, good conflict management skills were considered a core part of any able manager's skill set, it is now a stand-alone enterprise that has occasioned hundreds, even thousands of books on the topic. On the public speaking circuit, there are personalities, many of whom are paid big bucks, who come in to address companies on this subject alone.

Conflict management is the key not only to any corporation's prosperity, but to any individual's success as well. Conflict resolution comes into play for most of us each day, whether it's in handling a dissatisfied client's complaints or clearing up a fender bender on the street. Unfortunately, most people cower in the face of negotiation for fear that their voices are somehow invalid or out of line.

Approaches to Conflict Management

There are only a handful of possible strategies, broadly speaking, for resolving a dispute. Two parties may end up working together so that each comes out ahead, a process that, in nature, is known as symbiosis. Most conflicts don't have a single obvious solution, though, and so each party may be called upon to compromise. Unless you're dealing with a supervisor or a subordinate, this is usually the most tenable solution. By the same token, there are scenarios in which both parties stand to lose, which is the least preferable of all outcomes.

Finally, there are situations in which one party decidedly gains and the other decidedly loses. In power struggles between rivals, this is the most probable outcome. A clear victor usually emerges in sports competitions, political campaigns, and wars, though exceptions do exist. Deciding which style of conflict management best suits you depends on the unique circumstances of your dilemma, including whom you're confronting, where you're confronting them, and what's at stake.

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