Conflicts are a normal part of life. We interact with so many different people in so many different situations that we're bound to run into difficulties.
A conflict is a disagreement where those involved feel that they are somehow being threatened. It could be that they perceive a threat to their way of thinking, their interests, position, possessions - anything that they hold of value. Because of this, even though a conflict is a disagreement, it can be emotionally fueled.
The most effective conflict resolution is one in which you get what you want while helping the other party get what he or she wants. It sounds contradictory, but it's really not.
When you negotiate to secure your wants and take into account the wants of your counterpart, he or she will be more likely to work with you and help you achieve your goals. At the same time, your partner is less likely to feel defensive, aggressive or confrontational.
Effective conflict resolution requires good negotiating skills. Good negotiating skills require practice and thought. While there are many factors to consider when entering into a negotiation, let's start by looking at four overarching elements of effective negotiation to resolve conflict:
1. Know what you want and/or need.
This may seem obvious, but sometimes we enter into a negotiation knowing sort of what we want, but not specifically.
The point of negotiating is to secure what it is that you want, or get as close to it as possible. When you know what that is, write it down and be clear. State why you want it. This is your starting point.
It's also good to recognize what isn't as important to you. There may be something that you'd be willing to give up as part of the negotiation. Create a priority scale that outlines the most important to least important needs so you know your "want parameters."
2. Know what the other person wants and/or needs.
Like you, the person you're negotiating with has their own wants. Discuss what they're looking to accomplish from the negotiation and listen carefully.
3. Discuss and clarify.
Discuss which points you agree on and to what extent. Determine which goals, relative to the negotiation, that you both have in common.
Define and talk about all issues or concerns. It can be a daunting task to try to deal with all issues at once, so list all issues, prioritize them, and approach them one by one.
Through discussion, you'll both have a better understanding of one another. This will help you create a mutually acceptable agreement.
4. Work together towards an agreement.
It's important to work as a team to create an agreement because all parties need to have ownership of it and the responsibility for it. This kind of collaboration results in an agreement that responds to both parties' wants and needs.
Take some time to consider what you can do for your counterpart to help him secure what he's negotiating for. This doesn't mean acquiescing what you want. Chances are, however, that if you're willing to help your partner get what he or she wants, your partner will be more likely to help you get what you want.
Above all, make sure that the agreement is:
In addition, the agreement should:
- outline roles and responsibilities with enough detail that everyone understands their part and can take action
- have a timeline, if relevant.
While there are many other factors to establish an environment for effective negotiation, these four steps provide a solid foundation for good negotiation and conflict resolution.
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