Conflict management styles and strategies

What's the best way to deal with conflict?

How to manage conflict between individuals and between groups: Styles, approaches, and specific action steps.

Jesus' model for maintaining relationships:

  1. Don't ignore conflict. Address it.
  2. Don't abandon conflict. Pursue it to resolution.
  3. Don't exaggerate conflict. Solve it with as little publicity and public scrutiny as possible.
  4. Don't fence yourself in when conflict occurs. Stay open to correction and reproof.
  5. Don't recycle conflict. Once it's resolved, let it go.
— based on material by Bruce Barton in the "Matthew" section of Life Application Bible Commentary

Improving group 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: Five conflict-management approaches or 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 interpersonal 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. No one of 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 level of conflict.

drawing of an owl Collaborating
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:
drawing of a fox Compromising
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:
drawing of a teddy
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:
drawing of a
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:
drawing of a
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:

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

Note: This is a do-as-I-say,-not-as-I-do page. Even on my good days, I can explain how to mediate and resolve conflict better than I can actually do it. 🙂

    -- Howard Culbertson,

Afterword: Why is there so much conflict between people?

Conflict between people can arise from a variety of factors, including:

  1. Differences in Values and Beliefs: Individuals often have different perspectives, values, and beliefs that lead to clashes if these differences are not understood or respected.
  2. Limited Resources: Competition for limited resources such as money, land, power, or opportunities can lead to conflict, as individuals or groups may vie for control or access.
  3. Miscommunication: Poor communication or misunderstandings can escalate into conflicts when people fail to express themselves clearly or interpret messages inaccurately.
  4. Ego and Pride: Personal egos, pride, and the desire to assert dominance or superiority can lead individuals to engage in conflicts, particularly in situations where there is a perceived threat to one's status or reputation.
  5. Historical and Societal Factors: Historical grievances, societal inequalities, and systemic injustices can create tensions and conflicts between different social groups or communities.
  6. Fear and Insecurity: Fear of the unknown, fear of change, or insecurity about one's own position or identity can fuel conflict, as individuals may act defensively or aggressively to protect themselves or their interests.
  7. Group Dynamics: Group dynamics, including peer pressure, conformity, and ingroup/outgroup biases, can exacerbate conflicts by fostering hostility towards perceived outsiders or dissenters.
  8. Power Imbalances: Power imbalances within relationships, organizations, or societies can lead to exploitation, oppression, and resistance, resulting in conflicts as marginalized groups seek to challenge or overturn existing power structures.
  9. Lack of Empathy and Understanding: A lack of empathy or understanding towards others' perspectives, experiences, and needs can prevent individuals from resolving conflicts peacefully, as they may prioritize their own interests over those of others.
  10. Psychological Factors: Individual psychological factors such as personality traits, past traumas, or unresolved conflicts can influence how people respond to and engage in interpersonal conflicts.

Overall, conflict is a natural part of human interaction, but understanding its underlying causes and addressing them through communication, empathy, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills can help mitigate its negative impacts and foster greater harmony and cooperation among individuals and groups.

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