Managing Conflict in a Positive Way

Entering into conflict often evokes sports analogies. Whether it is an individual or a team sport, the automatic reaction is to imagine that someone is going to win, and someone is going to lose. Changing this mindset takes a conscious effort. This reframing has to shift years of attitudes based on experience with little knowledge of conflict cycles and processes. You may not be familiar with the works of Napoleon Hill (1960) who wrote Think and Grow Rich, but his entire premise was that a positive mental attitude is a prerequisite for success. In conflicts, this attitude is called a “win-win mindset.”


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When we adopt a win-win mindset, we have to consider the content issue from the perspective of both parties to the conflict, much as we did last week in the Dynamics of Trust Model. A natural outgrowth of that model is looking at face and how we ensure that both parties are respected and valued throughout the conflict interactions. When we disrespect, intentionally or unintentionally, corrective face management provides strategies to restore positive relations. We accept responsibility for our behavior and apologize with remorse and sincerity.


More than that, however, we must also create a climate that supports a positive conflict interaction. This means creating a positive psychological atmosphere in which to engage in conflict. How do you transform an adversarial relationship into a cooperative one? Are you willing to approach the other as an equal, regardless of status and power differences, and use your power responsibly? Yes, you have power! You are expected to use it for good in a positive conflict scenario. Even if the climate is initially harmful, these strategies will help convert them into nurturing ones. People change and grow when they feel safe; therefore, it will benefit both to have a positive climate.


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