Canadian Christian Relief & Development Association

Conflict Resolution & Enhancing Communication

By Denis St-Amour, Strategic Advisory Consulting, Coaching & Governance Services

What is Conflict, where does it generally arise from and how does one deal with to resolve it?

Multiple questions with multiple complexities & varying answers.

Let’s start with what is Conflict: Conflict tends to be a situation wherein two or more people have strong disagreements about something or someone specific, or strong differing views about a Situation, Company policy, actions, or a position someone has taken, atmospheric &/or Cultural positions that, may be an affront. On a larger scale, Regional, territorial global conflict. A much more subjective, complex and always potentially volatile situation. The issues are very different, but fundamentals are often (but not always ) similar: “I want to win”.

Sometimes it may be that Conflict lines have been drawn between Union & management and often hostilities & labor strife can ensue. More specifically, what we often see in the workplace are between people with both opposing views &/or positions, kind of battling for their respective POV, seeking to win their argument and preferred position. Of course, winning is not always for oneself, often for the better of others, others in a multitude of potential scenarios.              

Then of course there are just some people who do not like, respect, or appreciate “the Other”. The danger here is a potential lack of objectivity & openness (Respect) of the others Point of View &/or suspicious of motivations. Not a good recipe for open fruitful dialogue. There are of course many, many other examples that words & space do not permit in this short article. What I am proposing to do here is just provide a snapshot of possible multiple issues and an equal number of potential solutions / processes to the beginning of a more fruitful dialogue. 

So, what are some of the basics to dealing with situations of conflict?

Being categorical is not possible or advisable as each issue is very much its own and must be treated as such, organic in that who knows what shape & dimension conflict will take given the varying dynamics at play. Therefore, there are rarely simple solutions, and each must be treated as a totally new book to be read & studied in depth.

1. A great start is taking the time to really listen. The more I let people talk the more I listen, the more I learn. Love the expression “The Lord gave us two ears & one mouth, so maybe we should listen twice as much as we talk”?  Listen well--not only for what is said but what has been left un-said (reading between the lines).  A good tactic is to ask questions based on what has been shared, i.e., “could you unpack a little more in what you mean by that, or could you help me by sharing more of an example of what that means or where does that come from” In the consulting world, it is called “Peeling the onion”. Try getting to the root cause for better understanding.  Many other approaches can also be taken.   

2. Trust & discretion need to be evident if open candid dialogue is to take place. Agreement on what can be shared and what cannot be shared must be clear & confirmed.

3. A series of questions need to be prepared and safe ground created to talk if you want to be successful in getting to the hopeful root causes, i.e. Is it substantive, or is it superficial, is it a subjective or objective issue, or is there a deep-rooted reason? Is this a more personal issue or is it an organizational &/or people issue? These areas need to be identified if success is to be found. Understanding where a person is coming from & what their Agenda is, may make a difference in your ability to better discern and understand. Facts are always important as opinions without substantiation are much harder to deal with and validate.   

4. Make sure how success is defined because it can often mean different things to different people. Always best to seek a Win/Win situation, but remember, neither can the solution be all things to all people i.e., sometimes you just cannot please everybody, nor should you necessarily try, but, make sure you are fair & objective if you are to be credible. 

There is so much more to this subject that cannot be covered in this short paper. However, hopefully these are the beginnings of some helpful hints and ideas that might be useful.  Please contact me to discuss further if you have any questions!

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