Conflict Resolution: Concepts and Practice (The Technical Manager's Survival Guides)
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A framework for understanding conflict is an organizing strategy that brings such events into better focus. There are several ways these strategies can be used, and each of us will find some more amenable to our own ways of thinking than others. So, what works for some of us may not work for others. Moreover, the strategies presented in this chapter are not equally applicable to all conflicts. Seldom would we apply all of them at the same time to the same situation. Nevertheless, together they provide a set of concepts that can help us understand the nature of conflict and the dynamics of how conflict unfolds and can be resolved.
Every organization, every department, every team, creates a culture of conflict, a complex set of words, ideas, values, behaviors, attitudes, archetypes, customs, and rules that strongly influence how its members think about and respond to conflict. A corporate culture of conflict is shaped in and by the experiences of its employees and leaders. The employees accept parameters for what they believe is possible when they are in conflict and define what they can reasonably expect, both of themselves and others. The truth of the matter is, in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke,
Only someone who is ready for everything, who does not exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive and will himself sound the depths of his own being. For if we imagine this individual as a larger or smaller room, it is obvious that most people come to know only one corner of the room, one spot near the window, one narrow strip on which they keep walking back and forth. And yet how much more human is the dangerous insecurity that drives those prisoners in Poe's stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons, and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of the cells. We, however, are not prisoners.
Rilke's passage tells us a lot about how we deal with undesired situations such as conflicts. Since we are not prisoners, however, we tend to shape our capacity to ask questions, alter how we see the people we have conflicts with, and ourselves, and tell us what is acceptable and what is not. The truth of the matter is that we are free to decide how we will deal with a conflict at any given moment. Every organization generates spoken and unspoken rules about what we should and should not say, and do, when we are in a conflict. We all have our conflict styles —subject of this chapter—, regardless if we are aware of them are not. Each of the styles and entities produce a separate and distinct culture that exerts enormous pressure on us to respond to conflict in traditionally expected ways.