How we respond to Conflict.

Continued from: Conflict invokes strong stress responses.

In addition to the behaviour reactions summarised by the various conflict styles, we have emotional, perceptive and physical responses to conflict.

These can be important openings during conflict for personal reflection.

we have emotional, perceptive and physical responses to conflict.
We have emotional, perceptive and physical responses to conflict.

We can gain greater comprehension about the true source of threat by understanding our views, approaches and physical responses to conflict; we may even begin to appreciate potential solutions to the situation.

Our experienced emotional responses to conflict and feelings can range from anger and fear through to despair and confusion. These emotional responses are often misinterpreted; many people believe that others feel the same as they do. Consequently, different emotional responses are unclear and, can be misinterpreted.

Each of us has a cognitive response to conflict. These are our ideas and thoughts about conflict. They often present as ‘internal voices’ or core observers in the midst of the situation.

Through self-talk, we are often able to better understand our responses. For example, you might think any of the following things in reaction to someone jumping the queue in a shop: “Hey! What do you think you’re doing! Who does he think he is! How rude!” or: “I wonder if he realises what he has done. He seems lost in his own thoughts.  I wonder if he is alright.” Such diverse prospective reactions would contribute to your response and behaviour in this situation.

We each have a number of "perceptual filters" that influence our responses to any situation:

Your self-talk can either encourage a positive or negative feedback loop in the situation.

After considering the cognitive situation we respond physically.

These responses play a central part in our capacity to meet our needs in any conflict situation. They can involve intensified stress, physical tension, increased perspiration, a singular focus, increased breathing, sickness, and fast heartbeat. These reactions are similar to those we experience in high-anxiety circumstances. Many of them can be managed through stress management techniques. Creating a quieter atmosphere where you can manage these feelings can  allow you to chose an appropriate physical reaction to the situation.

 How do you perceive the Conflict? We define conflict as a difference between two parties.

Each party can perceive a threat to their wants, interests or value base.

One key element of this explanation is the notion that each party may have a diverse perception of the situation. We each have a number of “perceptual filters” that influence our responses to any situation:

  • Culture,
  • Race,
  • Ethnicity

Our varying cultural experiences guide us to hold certain beliefs about the social structure of our world, as well as the role of conflict. We may have learned to value practical, routine and spiritual needs differently, this influences our willingness to be involved in negotiation and our comfort in managing any conflict situation.

  • Education
  • Gender and sexuality

Men and women often perceive situations differently, based on both their understanding of the world (this may relate to power, privilege, race or ethnicity) and socialisation patterns that support the importance of interactions vs. task, substance vs. process, immediate vs. enduring outcomes.

Men and women approach conflictive situations with differing attitudes about the anticipated consequences, as well as the set of likely explanations.

Conflict Knowledge Parties react to conflicts on the basis of the information they have about the issue.

This includes situation-specific knowledge (e.g. “How do I comprehend what is going on?”) and general knowledge (e.g. “Have I experienced this before?” or “Have I been in similar situations before?”)

Diverse understanding can influence a person’s willingness to engage in efforts to manage any conflict, either by supporting them to deal with the problem or by discouraging them to consider alternatives.

Our willingness to resolve the situation can be affected by our impression of the other party.If the other party is perceived to be a threat (powerful, scary, unknown, etc.), it can influence our response to the situation. For example, if a big scary-looking guy is approaching me rapidly, yelling “Get out of the way!” I may respond differently than if a little, quiet person expressed the same message to me. Or, if I knew either one of them previously, I might respond in a different way based upon a prior sense of their standing: I am more motivated to listen with respect to someone I view as more credible than if the message that is coming from someone who lacks credibility and integrity in my mind.

Previous experiences can have a profound effect on our lives, and continues to influence our awareness of the situations. Previous experiences’ may have left us fearful, lacking trust, and hesitant to take risks. Alternatively, they may leave us self-assured, willing to take chances and willing to experience the unknown.

Either way, we must recognise the role of previous experiences aand the impact they have on our perceptual filters especially when is involves conflict.

While hard, allowing yourself time to reflect on conflict situations can often provide an opportunity to consider any misinterpretations from both sides considering values, perceptions, needs and behaviour.

These challenges add to our evolving sense, in conflict, that the situation is overpowering and intractable. As such, they become pivotal sources of potential understanding, perception and opportunity.

The process of Conflict Management Coaching provided by On the Table Consulting can support individuals through this reflection process prior to a Mediated  or non-Mediated conflict discussion

How can we help-

On the Table Consulting creates and implements a wide variety of communication and management consulting services, including organisational process development, executive and leadership development, and conflict resolution workshops.

On the Table Consulting offers mediation to facilitate conversations involving personal and workplace conflicts.

On the Table Consulting assists people and teams to have conversations. Conversations to resolve conflict impartially, objectively and in a timely manner.


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