Conflict management strategies and styles

Jesus' advice for keeping peace in relationships:
"2. Don't exaggerate conflict; solve it with the least possible publicity and public scrutiny
"3. Don't abandon conflict; pursue it to resolution
"4. Don't fence yourself in by conflict; taking two or three witnesses requires that you are also open to reproof and correction
"5. Don't recycle conflict; once resolved, let it go and get back to your life"
— Bruce Barton in "Matthew" section of Life Application Bible Commentary

Improving group, organizational or team dynamics when conflict occurs

"I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord." — Philippians 4:2

Peacemaking: Tips for recognizing and managing conflicts

Team unity: 5 conflict management techniques

Missionaries get into conflict with each other. Pastors and lay people get into conflict. Volunteers in ministry organizations find themselves in conflict. Human relations managers in businesses often find themselves managing situations of inter-personal conflict.

How can you manage disagreements in ways that build personal and collegial relationships rather than harming them? Such disagreements or conflicts can occur between individuals or between groups of people. Here are five strategies from conflict management theory for managing stressful situations. None is them is a "one-size-fits-all" solution. Which one is the best in a given situation will depend on a variety of factors, including an appraisal of the levels of conflict.

I win, you win
Symbol: Owl
Fundamental premise: Teamwork and cooperation help everyone achieve their goals while also maintaining relationships
Strategic philosophy: The process of working through differences will lead to creative solutions that will satisfy both parties' concerns
When to use:
  • When there is a high level of trust
  • When you don't want to have full responsibility
  • When you want others to also have "ownership" of solutions
  • When the people involved are willing to change their thinking as more information is found and new options are suggested
  • When you need to work through animosity and hard feelings
  • The process takes lots of time and energy
  • Some may take advantage of other people's trust and openness
You bend, I bend
Symbol: Fox
Fundamental premise: Winning something while losing a little is OK
Strategic philosophy: Both ends are placed against the middle in an attempt to serve the "common good" while ensuring each person can maintain something of their original position
When to use:
  • When people of equal status are equally committed to goals
  • When time can be saved by reaching intermediate settlements on individual parts of complex issues
  • When goals are moderately important
  • Important values and long-term objectives can be derailed in the process
  • May not work if initial demands are too great
  • Can spawn cynicism, especially if there's no commitment to honor the compromise solutions
Teddy BearAccommodating
I lose, you win
Symbol: Teddy Bear
Fundamental premise: Working toward a common purpose is more important than any of the peripheral concerns; the trauma of confronting differences may damage fragile relationships
Strategic philosophy: Appease others by downplaying conflict, thus protecting the relationship
When to use:
  • When an issue is not as important to you as it is to the other person
  • When you realize you are wrong
  • When you are willing to let others learn by mistake
  • When you know you cannot win
  • When it is not the right time and you would prefer to simply build credit for the future
  • When harmony is extremely important
  • When what the parties have in common is a good deal more important than their differences
  • One's own ideas don't get attention
  • Credibility and influence can be lost
I win, you lose
Symbol: Shark
Fundamental premise: Associates "winning" a conflict with competition
Strategic philosophy: When goals are extremely important, one must sometimes use power to win
When to use:
  • When you know you are right
  • When time is short and a quick decision is needed
  • When a strong personality is trying to steamroller you and you don't want to be taken advantage of
  • When you need to stand up for your rights
  • Can escalate conflict
  • Losers may retaliate
No winners, no losers
Symbol: Turtle
Fundamental premise: This isn't the right time or place to address this issue
Strategic philosophy: Avoids conflict by withdrawing, sidestepping, or postponing
When to use:
  • When the conflict is small and relationships are at stake
  • When you're counting to ten to cool off
  • When more important issues are pressing and you feel you don't have time to deal with this particular one
  • When you have no power and you see no chance of getting your concerns met
  • When you are too emotionally involved and others around you can solve the conflict more successfully
  • When more information is needed
  • Important decisions may be made by default
  • Postponing may make matters worse

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?" -- James 4:1

LinksConflict management resources on the Internet

SNU missions course materials and syllabi

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