In solving conflicts, one of the best things you can do is to strive for collaboration. When collaborating, each person in the conflict works to uncover the other person’s underlying concerns so that everyone understands what is really behind the conflict and the resolution can address most (if not all) of both parties’ concerns.
Common communication tools used in collaboration are: active listening, questioning that reveals a willingness to understand (such as “What is it about this situation that bothers you the most?”), expressing your own concerns without being overly emotional, sticking to the issue at hand and taking responsibility for your role in the conflict.
Here is a quick role play activity you can use to help people practice using collaboration as a conflict resolution method.
Group Activity: Collaborating (35 minutes)
1) Before the exercise, prepare envelopes for each pair of participants. On the outside of the envelope, write a conflict situation that could conceivably occur within an organization (or within your organization, specifically). Inside the envelope, place two slips of paper. On Slip #1, list a job description for Employee #1, as well as an underlying concern for them in the conflict. On Slip #2, list a job description for Employee #2, as well as an underlying concern for them in the conflict.
2) Remind the participants that the skills of active listening and open communication play a key role in helping to uncover underlying concerns in a conflict.
3) State that the goal of the role playing exercise is to get the other party to move past his or her position, and into collaboration. To achieve that, they will need to discover the concerns that are fueling the conflict.
4) Ask the participants to pair up for the role playing exercise. Then pass out the envelopes that you have prepared ahead of the session. Before they begin, ask them to reflect on their positions. They should think about the level of assertiveness they need to bring in defending their position and how willing they will be to cooperate when it comes to meeting the other person’s needs.
5) Have the group begin the role playing exercise. Set a time limit of 15 minutes.
6) After the role playing is completed, ask the group to discuss their experiences. Were they able to identify the position of the other party? Were they able to reveal the underlying concerns? How? Were they successful in moving toward a collaboration? Why or why not?
Excerpted from the Leader’s Guide for the CRM Learning video, Dealing With Conflict.
Training Resource: Dealing with Conflict shows why “collaboration” – which includes getting to the heart of what’s most important to the other party — is typically your best conflict resolution strategy.