Managing Conflict(Constructively) Dan Clark Director Montana State University Local Government Center May 2011
Human Continuum Strongly Agree Strongly Disagree • Dogs are the best animal companions • Women are better drivers then men • U.S. gun laws are too strict • Drug pushers should be executed • Conflict is a natural condition of being alive
Consider, based on your experiences, how conflict can function in negative ways? . . . . positive ways? How did conflict ultimately result in something good?
Discuss the following • Describe a conflict that turned out negatively • Describe a conflict that turned out positively
Conflict itself is normal. It is what we do during conflicts that makes it beneficial or harmful.
Conflict is inevitable, But combat is optional ~ Max Lucado
My favorite simple conflict definition: Perceived goal interference among interdependent parties. Adapted from materials developed by Dr. Steve Daniels, USU Extension
Why I like this definition so much… • Understand the goal interference…. • Understand the accuracy of perceptions…. • Understand the nature of the interdependence, and …. • You have gone a long way in understanding the situation.
What happens when conflicts are not managed well? • In a work group • To the individual
Sources of Conflict Values Substance Style
If Conflict keeps coming back…You are in the wrong circle! Information: data, misinformation, not enough information, withholding information Emotion: feelings, ego, self-esteem, interferes with reason and listening Values: deeply rooted beliefs, religion, politics, ethics
Process (Relationships): who has authority, are we peers, how are decisions made Style: communication style, group versus individual, directive vs. collaborative, in person vs. electronically, structure vs. fluidity Substance: scarce resources, money, time, space, equipment
Conflict Strategies High Competition Collaboration Compromise Concern for Self Avoidance Accommodation Low Low Concern for Other High
Conflict Strategies • Avoider • Accommodator • Compromiser • Competitor • Collaborator
What’s Your Style? • What are the problems with relying on one style? • What is the right strategic approach to this problem? • Intention versus by accident!
Managing Conflict Define the Problem * Ask the other person what the problem is * Restate * Say what you think the problem is * Establish ground rules CRU Institute 2005
Conflict as Opportunity • Good governance requires tension • Conflict leads to better decisions • Shift to a Learning Stance • Stop arguing about who is right • Stop blaming and judging • Separate the person from the problem • Explore each others stories • Move from certainty to curiosity
Effective Listening Exercise • Pair up with someone • Shorter of the two speaks first • Talk for 2 minutes about any topic you chose • Listener must listen – no questions, no response • On my signal, switch
Our Default Conflict Management Styles • Teapot - Passive aggressive. You take it until you explode. Pretty common • Schemer - Back channel communication • Creampuff - Over accommodative • SNAEP -Sensitive New Age Extension Professional
Develop a Personal “Roadmap” for Improvement • We can all improve our conflict management behaviors. • What each person needs is unique to them, and changes over time and setting.
Fundamental Techniques • Establish Ground Rules --negotiate procedures • Propose a “learning” perspective. --don’t jump to solution • Make trust overt. --earn it, don’t assume it • Share information --model interest disclosing
Thank you! Questions? Comments? Dan Clark, firstname.lastname@example.org MSU Local Government Center 406-994-6694 www.msulocalgov.org