We have written a number of articles about the interest based-problem solving process and why we believe it helps groups resolve difficult problems while reducing the likelihood of disputes. However, sometimes issues and individuals can lead to conflict in a team.
No matter how well a group is doing, disagreements will occur. Conflict can stop a team in its tracks. Members may not be certain what to do next or how to respond. Conflict, when handled properly, can benefit the team by challenging assumptions or opening the possibility for a more frank discussion of the issues.
Here are some steps you can use to help deal with conflict.
Actively listen to the other party. When someone argues with us we normally feel a range of emotions. We may be surprised at their actions. As they speak, we begin framing our response and picking out how the things they say are wrong. We do not really listen to what they are saying. Instead, stop to actively listen to what is being said. Be certain that you understand their views.
Ask questions to help clarify your understandings of their views. This will also show the other person you have listened to them, which will help encourage discussion. Be certain you ask these questions in a non-accusatory manner that shows you recognize their feelings. Do not assume you know what the person is feeling.
Focus on interests. Hopefully, you took the time to identify everyone’s interests when identifying and diagnosing the problem. Remind everyone of those interests to show the concerns being raised are reflected in the interests. If you did not identify interests previously, take the time to do so now. Ask questions to determine why this issue is important to the other party or if they believe their concerns are not being addressed.
Ask the other party for suggestions. Find out how they feel the problem should be resolved or for more information about how to address their concerns. This can open discussion and defuse the conflict, replacing it with an opportunity to seek solutions.
Take a break to allow everyone to cool off. This will give you (and the other party) a chance to think about the situation. You may even be able to talk privately with the person to help further your understanding of their beliefs. You might need to adjourn the meeting, giving everyone time to cool off and seek additional information before the next meeting.
Do not ignore the topic at the next meeting. Conflict rarely goes away on its own, it only becomes worse if you do not deal with it. The person will feel even more alienated.
Consider whether you own behaviors contributed to the conflict. Ask whether you did something to upset them, as this can open the door to discussion. Perhaps their concerns are with another member of the team, and your discussions with them can help alleviate the concerns.
Look for multiple options to solve the problem, including those presented by the other party. In interest based problem solving, we look for many possible options rather than focus on a single position. be certain all possible outcomes are considered, even if initially you may not like the option. As the group decides what to do using clear, objective criteria, you may find it possible to include ways to address the concerns and interests of all committee members.
Even the most effective teams experience conflict. When they do, the key to success will be to remember how to deal with the conflict productively. As you do, the team can grow in its ability to handle future concerns.
For more ideas about dealing with conflict or help with your committee, contact Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee.