I’m one of those people who prefers to avoid conflict. I know that’s not such a good approach, so I work to resist the urge to run the other way. One thing that has helped me resist that urge is the conflict resolution training delivered by Warren Wilson. Warren’s session is part of the communication training provided by OREA to the Presidents-elect of the 40 Ontario real estate associations. I had the pleasure of interviewing him at one of our recent training sessions.
In Warren’s training, leaders learn that conflict isn’t necessarily bad; that conflict is bound to arise whenever people work together. It’s the leader’s role to mitigate some of the uncomfortable responses to conflict (such as displays of emotion) and help people resolve the issues that caused the conflict.
Warren teaches that we have a choice about how we respond to conflict. Unfortunately, we don’t always exercise that choice. Most of us have learned ways of dealing with conflict that have worked for us in the past. We regularly rely on those same approaches to handle all of the conflicts we encounter. But not all conflict is the same, warns Warren, and the same response isn’t always appropriate.
Key to knowing how to respond to any conflict situation is to consider what’s important. How important is the relationship you have with the other person? Do you need to work closely with this person over the long term? How important is the specific issue to you? How important is it to the other person? Depending on your answers to these questions, you can select the approach that will work best.
In some cases where the relationship is very important but the issue is not very important to you, you may choose to accommodate the other person’s perspective. However if the issue is very important to you, you may choose to assert your perspective more so. In his training sessions, Warren uses the Thomas Kilman Instrument (TKI) to help participants gain insight into their preferred conflict style and learn to thoughtfully determine if that style is the most appropriate in a given situation. This instrument has proven to be a very effective tool as participants prepare to take on the highest leadership position in their associations.
In a nutshell, Warren teaches people to think about what’s at stake when they are in a conflict situation. He suggests they choose an approach that’s appropriate to the relationship they have with the other person and how important the issue is to each person.