RU GSE Student Blog

A Student Perspective

Conflict, conflict, go away! Come again some other day!

If only it were as easy as wishing raining away…

Unfortunately, conflict is a very natural part of life, particularly when it comes to group dynamics.

Try to think of a time you worked with a group without even an ounce of conflict, disagreement, or tension…I’ll give you a minute to think…

GO!

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Still thinking?

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.

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Are you done thinking yet?

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Okay…STOP THINKING!

So do you have any examples? None? Maybe one? Well, if you have lots, you’re probably more the exception than the rule because I for one know that I have never been in a group that was blissfully conflict free.

I feel like I’m giving conflict a bad name here.

Let me be clear:

Conflict is not typically a pleasant part of life, but it does NOT always have to be a bad thing!

For instance, conflict can lead to:

  • Innovation
  • New ideas
  • Positive change
  • Personal growth
  • Renewed trust within a group

According to chron.com, conflict can also:

  • Encourage new thinking
  • Raise questions that lead to breakthroughs in thinking
  • Build stronger relationships
  • Open minds
  • Beat stagnation

Let’s back up for a second. What is conflict?

Welcome to Conflict 101 

(courtesy of helpguide.org)

  • A conflict is more than just a disagreement. It is a situation in which one or both parties perceive a threat (whether or not the threat is real).
  • Conflicts continue to fester when ignored. Because conflicts involve perceived threats to our well-being and survival, they stay with us until we face and resolve them.
  • We respond to conflicts based on our perceptions of the situation, not necessarily to an objective review of the facts. Our perceptions are influenced by our life experiences, culture, values, and beliefs.
  • Conflicts trigger strong emotions. If you aren’t comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them in times of stress, you won’t be able to resolve conflict successfully.
  • Conflicts are an opportunity for growth. When you’re able to resolve conflict in a relationship, it builds trust. You can feel secure, knowing your relationship can survive challenges and disagreements.

At this point, you may be thinking: so, how can I deal with conflict in my daily life?

Well, you’re in luck! Here are some of the DOs & DON’Ts.

You can make conflict worse if you take the wrong approach. According to the leadership freak blog, you can make conflict worse if you:

  1. Say “calm down”
  2. Demand that you’re right
  3. Worry about who started it

Now, let’s shift & talk about how to resolve conflict because that’s the goal after all, right?

Helpguide.com offers some great tips for moving toward conflict resolution:

  • Listen for what is felt as well as said. When we listen we connect more deeply to our own needs and emotions, and to those of other people. Listening in this way also strengthens us, informs us, and makes it easier for others to hear us.
  • Make conflict resolution the priority rather than winning or “being right.” Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Be respectful of the other person and his or her viewpoint.
  • Focus on the present. If you’re holding on to old hurts and resentments, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be impaired. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the here-and-now to solve the problem.
  • Pick your battlesConflicts can be draining, so it’s important to consider whether the issue is really worthy of your time and energy. Maybe you don’t want to surrender a parking space if you’ve been circling for 15 minutes. But if there are dozens of spots, arguing over a single space isn’t worth it.
  • Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can never compensate for our losses and only adds to our injury by further depleting and draining our lives.
  • Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.
As graduate students, we frequently work in groups and teams. Some of us advise student organizations, while others supervise student staffs. Conflict in these venues is natural. Different conflicts beg for different conflict management styles.
Thomas-Kilmann’s Conflict Management Styles and Strategies include:  
  • avoidance: running away from the conflict
  • compromise: each person “gives a little” to resolve conflict
  • accommodation: you give in to the other party’s desired outcome
  • competition: denying your own responsibility in the conflict & not backing down
  • collaboration: open and honest dialogue that strives to resolve conflict
So, what should you take away?
It’s okay to dislike conflict. It can be extremely challenging and totally upset your status quo. But, it’s not okay to avoid conflict altogether because then you run the risk of staying stagnant. It’s important to face conflict head on. Acknowledge it. Others will respect you more for addressing conflict in order to improve things, than if you just put your tail between your legs and ran away from it. When the relationship between people is important, avoidance is not a helpful strategy.
While each of the above conflict management styles have their time and place, I personally believe that collaboration is the one most useful to working in groups and managing group dynamics, but the choice is ultimately yours…
Since conflict can’t be wished away, it’s something we all must struggle to manage.
At the end of the day, conflict can make you and the group stronger.
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One thought on “Conflict, conflict, go away! Come again some other day!

  1. I actually had to show this blog, “Conflict, conflict, go
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    I reallybasically wanted to spread your superb publishing!
    Thanks a lot, Curtis

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