Lets Look at the Topic of Communication just a bit...
Communication and conflict is often thought of as going hand and hand together. It is often misunderstood for an exciting game of hot potato. Many imagine conflict communication as words jumping from one hand to another failing to make a mark on any one contestant in particular and burning hands until a contestant emerges victoriously. It is perceived as such because at one point this is how it was and how it still is for some who lack the knowledge of effective communication in conflict resolution. Because of studies and now common known knowledge about it, communication has evolved along with today’s ever changing technologies. It is now seen as something that both contestants’ partake in; where they must collaborate in order to achieve effective conflict resolution where they all emerge victoriously. Because communication is no longer a conveyer belt process the following factors are key in interactive and effective communication; stopping, thinking, listening, expressing, remaining focused, compromising, communicating and collaborating, although, not necessarily in that order. In addition there may be times where a step is repeated.
Conflict occurs when two or more parties “seek incompatible goals” (Cahn,.D.D. & Abigail,.R.A. 2007, p.3). The text also informs us that the participants are interdependent meaning they depend on each other making the conflict all the more significant (Cahn,.D.D. & Abigail,.R.A. 2007, p.3). We continue to read that conflict is viewed as competing responses to a single event accompanied by differences, and hostility amongst the parties with a problem that will need to be resolved, which is how conflict is viewed by many. Although many view conflict in a negative light they fail to see or understand that conflict can bring about positive change or needed realizations in many situations. The way I view change is that change is the only constant, so, let us adapt and learn how to accept change the good and the bad because it is a part of life just like conflict is. Conflict in its various forms is something that is inevitable due to the various opinionated personalities and the ever-changing acceptances of today’s society.
There are a few different types of conflict: Unreal conflicts that consist of false conflicts and displaced conflicts, misplaced conflicts, real conflicts, and competitive situations just to name a few. One of the most significant conflicts is a false unreal conflict that occurs “when at least one person in an interdependent relationship thinks that there is a conflict but after talking to the other(s) involved, finds there is no conflict”(Cahn,.D.D. & Abigail,.R.A. 2007, p.23). I like to think of this as the paranoia conflict because often times we are our own worst enemies our mind likes to create situations for us, which do not exist. However because sometimes we, especially me, can become so paranoid when we jump to conclusions and make outrageous assumptions we come to believe that the false conflict is actually true. Often times the only thing that can tell us otherwise is when the confrontation of the other party informs us that it is indeed false.
Another significant conflict is the real conflict that actually exists. As we learn in chapter two the real conflict can range from a minor issue to a conflict so serious that if left unattended can severely hurt a relationship (Cahn,.D.D. & Abigail,.R.A. 2007, p.26). Both unreal and real conflicts should be handled carefully because if mistreated or misunderstood the conflict can be blown pout of proportion causing bigger conflicts or failed attempts to conflict resolution because of ineffective communication and/or conflict resolution techniques. This is why conflict resolution and communication skills are daily struggles for some. It takes years to master techniques that will assist in resolving matters let alone how to remain calm. Many people have difficulty with handling stress, anger and confrontations which is why it is important to learn ones own style of handling conflict in addition to learning various conflict resolution strategies for when put in a position where compromising your style is required.
There are numerous ways that people respond to conflict and no matter how predictable one may be predictability is not something to count on. At any moment that person can hit you with something that was completely unexpected. Chapter three of our text assists us in understanding one of the most important behaviors that is portrayed as a reaction to conflict. Becoming defensive is a response that occurs most often when confronted by conflict. In chapter three we learn that defensiveness is “a somewhat hostile, emotional state which causes people to either partially or totally reject incoming messages and other stimuli which they perceive as being incorrect or contradictory to their point of view”(Cahn,.D.D. & Abigail,.R.A. 2007, p.50). When defensiveness comes into play one must from then on be extremely careful with how to proceed and attempt conflict resolution because of ones sensitivity.
If one becomes defensive they are offended, sensitive or irritable which means that because they are already in that state of negativity they can easily be tipped towards the dark side. This is when they can become aggressive and angry, possibly even violent. This is where conflict styles and strategies come in. We must know our own conflict style so that we know when to put it aside and choose a strategy to utilize if necessary. In chapter 5 we learn that a conflict style is a set of behaviors for dealing with situations and we use it whenever and wherever we can (Cahn,.D.D. & Abigail,.R.A. 2007, p.78). We also learn that a strategy is an over all plan that is utilized for one situation. Once you begin to utilize that strategy more then once it becomes a style rather then a strategy. (Cahn,.D.D. & Abigail,.R.A. 2007, p.78). Some strategies include avoidance, accommodation, competition, compromise and collaboration as we can see from Table 5.2 on page 81 of our text. Well, what happens when we don’t know if we should use our style or our strategies? In chapter three we learn about one of the most effective communication devices that I have learned in this class. No matter what the situation this device will assist because of its simplicity and flexibility.
The S-TLC, which is widely known and utilized device assists us in remaining calm, to understand fully what is going on at the moment as we listen to our opponent and then assists us in figuring out how to proceed by communicating with each other. It can also assist us when trying to figure out how to continue the process of conflict resolution. If I were to use this device to assist me in figuring out how to continue conflict resolution it would go something like this. Stop-take a moment to compose yourself and focus on what is occurring at the moment. Think- did I utilize my style or a strategy when approaching this conflict? Whatever I utilized didn’t work. My opponent got defensive so where should I go from here? Listen- really listen and understand what they are really saying. By reading in between the lines and really understanding this person from what you have heard you may be able to find out how to approach this situation from here on with out offending or creating a bigger conflict then there is at the moment. Communicate – speak to this person while utilizing the strategy you have chosen to maintain the situation under control. By utilizing this device you will always be able to maintain the situation under control. The S-TLC devices contains four key factors of effective communication that where mentioned above.
They were mentioned above because they are also a part of what I feel are best practices of how to deal with conflict. The eight factors are: stop, think, listen, express, remain focused, compromise, communicate and collaborate. I will explain why each factor is important to effective communication. Stop assists you in remaining calm and breathing allowing oxygen into the blood stream and maintain a clear mind. At the same time it provides a moment for both yourself and your opponent to restructure. Thinking assists you in staying one step ahead with in knowing what needs to be done next or in assessing the current situation.
Listen, which in my opinion is the most important factor possible. Listening does not come easily, it is something that takes practice and a real willingness, it may take some years “Listening is a desire to pay attention to the other person, characterized by openness to the other person’s view, willingness to suspend judgment during the discussion, patience to hear the other out, an empathic response to the other person, and a commitment to listen to all the other person has to say”(Cahn,.D.D. & Abigail,.R.A. 2007, p.50). By listening you are showing that person that you are making a conscious effort in their favor, to understand what they are saying and to attempt to understand how they are feeling. Something as simple as listening can sometimes be something so powerful. Sometimes it is all that is needed to resolve the conflict because that person just wants to be heard, recognized, or acknowledged and by truly listening you are doing just that for them. As an HR assistant it is my job to listen. To everyone.
It is necessary to field calls and figure out what is going on with the calls, figure out what is a priority and what is not, what has to be sent to a higher level or if I can take care of the situation easily, what matters are more serious and which are dire. So it is important that I have good listening skills in order to show the employee that I am listening to them and in any situations which is important to the employee I need to be able to empathize with the person as well to show that their situation will indeed be taken care of and show him /her my understanding and urgency. Which is why I think that listening skills are most important, however on the flipside I think that it is very important to express oneself as well. Because just as one is able to listen and take pounds off of their opponents shoulders the same must be reciprocated for the person who first listened. In addition it would not be ethically right to allow one to say everything on their mind and the other to not. The initial listener should be able to speak as well in order to receive the same relief.
By expressing and receiving relief I think that it assist in remaining focused which is our next key factor. Remaining focused on the topic at hand is important because it is too often that during conflict the parties become irrationally with anger and loose sight of their goals. Moving on to irrelevant subject that does not contribute towards conflict resolution but take away from the progress that is why remaining focused is a key factor to conflict resolution.
Compromise, communicate and collaborate are all in the same playing field. C3 is how I like to think of it, ironic because math is my worst subject. However, these work together because not all three will always be required, although, they are all important. Compromise is important because there will be cases in which one must give up or make a sacrifice in order to achieve conflict resolution. As learned in chapter three, Communicating is important because the opponents must send and receive messages as well as create meaning together, therefore communication must occur through the linear form of communication or the transactional model of communication. Last but surly not least collaborating is important because the opponents must work together to achieve conflict resolution. I have been able to implement many of these factors and they have allowed me to successfully learn and earn experience as I achieve conflict resolution.
There was recently a situation in which I received a phone call from one of our teammates in regards to a password needing to be reset. He was livid and immediately called me insulting names because he stated that it was my fault the password was not working. Of course, I wanted to reach my hand through the phone and show him some… however I new better. Two wrongs will never make a right. First I stopped and took a few deep breaths to ensure I was composed while he was on hold waiting for me. I thought about the situation his request is simple and it can be accomplished as long as he has patience.
However, he has already lost it some how, his stress, anger and frustration must be misplaced because I have been on the phone with him all of 2 minutes and it has been him yelling at me. So I am going to utilize a very passive strategy here to get him to work with me in this situation. I was able to slowly calm him while I understood to everything he had to say and when he spoke to me inappropriate I calmly but assertively requested that he refrain from such language since I have yet to utilize that tone with him. In addition I had done nothing wrong but am only here to assist him with his concern. Thankfully he refrained and ended the conversation in thanking me for assisting him. I don’t think that I would change anything about this occurrence because it assists me in toning my skills in addition it started out negatively yet turned for the better by the end of the conversation. Sometimes there are situations that are not all factors are utilized however it is always good to have these eight factors brewing in the back of your mind for when required.
There is a conflict that I anticipate to have with in the next few weeks. At the beginning of this class I was put up for a promotion and because I do not have my BA yet I didn’t not get the position, even though I am so close. I intend on approaching the VP of HR with a request for some private time in order to discuss why it was impossible to work with me until I had my degree in one year and one month. I am going to approach her with a positive, passive yet firm attitude, if that makes sense. I have full intentions of having all eight of my factors in the back of my mind in addition. I will just have to remind my self to breath and remain calm. I must keep in mind that this is something I will go through at the moment not only with my current employer but possibly other employers until I get my degrees am official.
Communication is no longer a conveyer belt process the following factors are key in interactive and effective communication; stopping, thinking, listening, expressing, remaining focused, compromising, communicating and collaborating, although, not necessarily in that order. I must contain these factors in mind whenever engaging in conflict in order to grown as a person and to learn from others as well.
Abigail, R.A. & Cahn, D.D. (2007) Managing conflict through communication. Boston: Pearson.