The Role of Communication In Conflict Management
Conflict is generally described as active disagreement and argument between persons, organisations or nations. It is important to note that conflict is an inevitable part of human co-existence. Therefore, conflict is not necessarily a bad thing.
In fact, peace is not just the absence of conflict, while the presence of conflict does not necessarily suggest malice, violence or war. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Peace is not just the absence of conflict; peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, gender, class, caste or any other social markers of difference.
” Matter-of-factly, development is hardly possible in any human gathering where there is never conflict. All of the points above imply that what matters is to understand ways to manage conflict in different situations. The rest of this piece will, hence, discuss sources of conflict, principles of conflict management and resolution, responses to conflict, and the role of communication in conflict management, especially at an organisational level.
Notably, scholars have identified some sources of conflict, and one of them is a clash in goals, roles and interests. When the goals, roles and interests of different individuals are not clearly stipulated and adhered to, such could result in conflict at every level of human engagement— family, organisation, and nation. At the family level, for instance, there is always conflict when couples are not decisive about their marital goals and roles. Such is the case, too, when the staff of an organisation do not jointly key into the goal of the organisation.
Not only that, the high desire for autonomy and authority by different individuals or units is another source of conflict. On the home front, a husband could feel his authority is being contested, and a wife could feel her husband is exercising too much authority over her.
In the same vein, a unit within an organisation could think another unit is exercising authority over the former’s domain, culminating in conflict. At both family and organisational levels, scarcity of resources is another source of conflict. For specifics, when a person or group is unable to meet up with their financial or material obligation, such can result in conflict if not properly handled on both ends. Another source of conflict is communication breakdown. Persons and organisations are often accused of hoarding information, whereas it is usually a case of inefficient dissemination of information.
Against this backdrop, there are some principles of conflict management and resolution. First among these principles is the need to define the conflict. This involves determining the source of the conflict and ascertaining the emotional involvement of the different parties. Also, it is important to determine the perceptions of the conflicting parties. At times, conflicts are just about perceptual distortions.
Put differently, it is usually the case that conflicting parties merely do not understand each other, making a simple misunderstanding appear more serious than it really is. Another principle of conflict resolution is brainstorming and deliberation. As such, conflicting parties can be brought together to brainstorm their differences with the intention of finding resolutions. One other approach to conflict management and resolution is the peace priority approach. This demands that conflicting parties understand that making peace is better than being right. In this approach, the intervener foregrounds peace rather than trying to apportion blame.
Again, there are different responses to conflict. Some responses are described as healthy and others are unhealthy. One healthy way to respond to conflicts is to recognise and respond to issues that are important to the other person. A healthy response to conflict demands the readiness to forgive and forget. One must also be optimistic that resolution can be achieved. It equally bears mentioning that conflicting parties should not be dogmatic. Lastly, you have to be respectful of other people’s opinions while being affirmative about your stance. That said, some unhealthy responses to conflict include being insensitive to the other party’s concern, responding in anger, withdrawing love and affection, and not being open to resolution.
The last part of this piece will discuss the role of communication in conflict management. Communication, as a strategy to resolve conflicts, demands, first off, that parties are explicit and expressive about their expectations. Unexpressed expectations are building blocks for conflicts. To make communication play its role effectively in conflict resolution, all concerned parties should be mindful of their tone and pitch during dialogues, as well as their choice of words in written communication.
Your interaction in conflict resolution should be guided by empathy. This demands that you put yourself in the other person’s or party’s shoes. Last but not least, be respectful and adhere to cultural indices in your choice of language during conflict resolution. If, for instance, you would not call a person certain names in the absence of conflict, you can try to refrain from calling them such names even when there is conflict to avoid worsening the situation.
In conclusion, conflict is normal in all human settings. Conflicts can be more easily resolved when the conflicting parties do not pretend like there are no conflicts and when each party is ready to see things from the other person’s point of view.
(c) 2023 Ganiu Abisoye Bamgbose (Dr GAB)
Department of English,
Lagos State University