Conflict Management

Possible impossible sign

What is Conflict Management?

I was looking at the term  “conflict management” the other day and realized that it is often used interchangeably with “conflict resolution”.  The difference, however is that the concept of conflict management is based on a premise that not all disputes end in resolution.  Additionally, conflict management is the practice of identifying and handling conflict in a sensible, fair and efficient manner.  Therefore, in summary “conflict management” is any collection of actions, responses, processes, and/or systems that help manage, improve, or prevent the deterioration of relationship dynamics.

A part of effective leadership is conflict management.  When parties involved cannot resolve the dispute, leaders use strategies to manage the dispute and acknowledge the differences.  Conflict management brings awareness to the parties in a dispute of their options.  It allows examination of their own assessments, to communicate their feelings and to choose options that avoid defensive or aggressive reactions. 

Words to the Wise

We often think that other people see the world in the same way as we do, and overestimate the degree to which they understand our approach and actions.  As leaders of ourselves and of others, it is important that rather than making assumptions, we ask for clarification.

Be willing to take the first step in opening up the conversation.  The fear of rejection may lead to closed body language and lack of eye contact, which may be perceived by the other person inaccurately.  Go out of your way to make eye contact, and open up the conversation constructively. 

Skills for Managing Conflict

Various skills are utilized in managing conflict:

  1. Open Communication (questioning openly, active listening, reflecting, feedback and focus)
  2. Establish Ground Rules to ensure the discussion is constructive and productive
  3. Confront Current Issues – not the people and not the past
  4. Use Listening Skills – for both logic (content) and feelings (emotions).  Listen to understand – paraphrase, repeat, summarize to check understanding.
  5. Keep Emotions in Check and be aware of the emotions of the other party.
  6. Use humour to relieve tension (when appropriate)


Linda Tropp, Ph.D Director of Psychology of peace and violence concentration at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA

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