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How to Handle the #1 Most Common Conflict

In human experience conflict is normal. But conflict is really only of two forms—external conflicts that you have with other people, or internal conflicts you have within yourself.

There are four kinds of conflict you can experience.

First is conflict of roles and responsibilities. In this is: who’s responsible for the task or the situation, what are the roles people have, who has the power or the authority, whose territory is this, who has the upper hand, what is the leadership structure and where is each person in the hierarchy, and so on. This happens frequently, and is normally about power structure.

Second is conflict of goals and needs. This is about: what results are we trying to obtain, what outcome is to be achieved, what do people need in the situation, what information is lacking or needs to be clarified. It’s about where people are trying to get to. To manage goals and needs conflicts information is usually needed. Clarifying where the person or organization is trying to get to is essential.

Third is conflict of values and beliefs. This pertains to what people think is important. It’s about what you value in your life. It has to do with what you believe about people, fairness, money, relationships, politics, the environment, etc. Values and beliefs conflicts are what wars are fought over.

Fourth is conflict of perceptions or point of view. This is just the way one person sees something vs. how another does.

Over 80 percent of all conflict is conflict of perception. Why? Because we are different. We all are older, younger, richer, poorer, more educated, less educated, male, female, grew up in different environments, in different parts of the country, liking different hobbies, liking different types of entertainment, and so on.

The best way to manage conflict of perception is to step back, and view the situation from a detached perspective. By getting some distance from the situation, and looking at it as more of a neutral observer, you can see both sides more clearly.

From this detached position it is easier to understand the other persons point of view. Everyone likes to think they are right, yet we need to open up and looked at situations from the other persons perspective.

You do need to be willing to stand your ground and have conflict. Yet knowing the majority of conflict is not because one person is right and the other is wrong, but just because we see things from different vantage points, can lessen the struggle.