Conflict Management from EI Point of View
Even in domestic settings, where members live together and are influenced by each other, conflicts are inevitable from time to time. Yet, they may become heightened in the society and at the workplace. While many try to resolve the conflict through persuasion, some may resort to coercion. Trying to alleviate conflict leads to more aggressive behavior towards those on the opposite side of the table. The momentary win could lead to a long-lasting harm to the relationship.
People interact in various situations and under different circumstances. Conflict may rise in a casual informal discussion or a formal business meeting. From personal relationships to the professional ones, every tactful management of the conflict can lead to the improvement of individuals as well as the relationship. However, mismanaged conflicts could turn into disputes, wars, or in the worst case lead into the end of the relationship.
The Role of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence (EI) can be helpful in addressing and resolving conflicts. EI can be effective in helping us understand how we feel (self-awareness) and how we can manage that feeling (self-management). It also invites us to understand how other people feel (social awareness) and manage our relationships accordingly (relationship management). Based on EI, the following steps can be taken to manage conflicts.
Self-Awareness in Times of Conflict
From personal point of view, a person may experience a rush of feelings during a conflict. Feelings such as anger, disappointment, sadness, hurt, and confusion may rise in the occasion. This holds true for both sides of the conflict regardless of who is right or wrong. Feelings do not occur based on the facts. They occur naturally. The first step in conflict management is to be aware of how you feel during the conflict. You may not be able to change how you feel, but you can certainly allow yourself the right to feel so. This means that you are allowed to feel different from other people, and you should not try to suppress it. Suppression of feelings can lead to built-up anger, and then a sudden outburst in a completely different situation. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge the feeling at the time they rise.
Self-Management and Addressing Conflicts
The second step towards conflict management is self-management. Since you are aware of how you feel, it becomes easier to address it personally and to share it with others rather than showing it through an outburst. Being in control of how you feel, provides an opportunity to express what you think. In other words, feelings do not command the direction of the discussion. Exercising self-management helps people stay calm in a turbulent situation. In turn, this increases the chance to reach a more rational resolution rather than a dispute on differences. It helps to express feelings and the reason behind them, but also to address the problem and suggest a solution. As long as self-management is exercised by the parties in a conflict, the situation is unlikely to escalate.
Social-Awareness: Understanding Others During Conflict
The third step involves more than the self. At this stage, it is important to put our feelings and thoughts aside. Listen to how the other parties feel and what they have to say. Just as we are allowed to feel how we feel, so are they. Acknowledging and respecting other people’s feelings, even if we disagree with their ideas, creates an accepting environment where people can express themselves openly. An accepting environment leads to open discussions about conflicts, rather than avoiding or ignoring them. As long as people feel heard, they are more open to discussion and resolutions. Active listening is a necessary skill in conflict management. It requires full attention to the other person, while trying to understand them without any judgment.
Managing Conflicts: Relationship Management
The last step is relationship management. In fact, it involves exercising the previous three steps in every conflict. Although it all fit into a couple of paragraphs, conflict management through EI skills is easier said than done. It requires practice, just like any other skill. The goal is not to become perfect, but to improve gradually and consistently. With every practice, conflict management becomes easier.
It is important to remember that there is more than one side to a conflict. While you may be working hard to manage the conflict, the other party might not. Considering the fact that this makes things much harder, the practice of conflict management needs to be accompanied with patience. After all, relationships are more important than conflicts. Your awareness and management may as well inspire others to do the same.
Every individual deals with conflict in their own particular way. Some accommodate while others avoid conflict. some people compromise or collaborate and some act as if they are in competition with each other. Each of these approaches has its own benefits and disadvantages. Some of them offer momentary or temporary solutions and at times gives the person the upper hand, but in the long run, they can significantly damage the relationship in an irreversible manner. The decision about how to deal with conflict needs to be considered carefully; sometimes the win may come at a higher price in the future.