The current pandemic has proved an opportunity for some businesses, a killer for others. Whether we’re thriving or just surviving right now, conflict is an inherent part of life. Covid-19 has simply taken the issues we all find ourselves dealing with on a day to day basis, shaken them all up and dropped a new mixture of them back in our laps.
The media is full of examples:
How you respond to and handle conflict, will be the difference between your thriving organisation continuing to grow, your struggling one beginning to grow again or the end of the line for both.
When faced with conflict we have a number of alternatives:
The last 3 of these alternatives give us the best chance of resolving conflict. Surprisingly, as a negotiator, negotiation would not be where I’d start.
Our first port of call should be to try to get the other person to see things our way through persuasion. Making well-constructed, convincing arguments using compelling language may enable us to resolve a conflict quickly without having to sacrifice anything. If that works – fine. More often than not though we find ourselves repeating our point of view over and over, or even pleading with the other side. If that happens, persuasion is not working and it’s time to move on with a different approach.
Often, conflicts are simply problems looking for a solution. If parties can come together collaboratively with the “we’re in it together” approach, built on mutual trust, sometimes a solution can be built by working together. However, problem-solving only works when both parties see the problem from the same perspective. When we don’t, we’re trying to address and solve different problems.
If (or when) persuasion or problem-solving do not work, then it’s time to consider negotiating. You may ask, “Why don’t we start with negotiation?” The short answer is that negotiation is a trading activity that comes at a cost. It involves making movement, trading things that are hopefully of low cost to us but high value to the other party, in return for things that are hopefully of lower cost to them but of higher value to us.
We also risk setting precedents for the future and for some people, moving from a previously held position can cause them to feel they’re losing face.
If on balance, we believe the costs of all these things are lower to us and those we represent than the costs of the conflict remaining unresolved or deadlocked, only then should we look to negotiate.
About the author:
Born and raised in the UK, where he first became involved with Scotwork, Mark has lived in New Zealand since 1994. Mark has a passion for teaching, coaching and negotiating, not just in the classroom but working alongside clients helping them to achieve outstanding results in major commercial and industrial relations negotiations.