Unlike conflict management, which seeks to deal with conflicts as they arise, conflict resolution attempts to identify the root of the conflict and resolve it so it does not arise again in the future.
According to the Thomas Kilman Instrument, there are five ways of addressing conflict:
Accommodation – complete abandonment of one’s needs to attend to the needs of the other party. In this situation, the needs of the other party supersede your needs and the conflict is easily resolved by appeasing the other party.
Avoidance – to ignore or recoil from the conflict, opting instead to focus on other matters or staying away from the source of the conflict. This is a means to stall in hopes that the conflict will resolve itself or that it can be resolved later.
Collaboration – if there is ample time available, two parties may be able to resolve a conflict by focusing on shared goals with some leadership. These parties must have similar goals for the collaboration to be successful. Through this partnership, they can achieve a solution that satisfies both parties as they have achieved their shared goals.
Compromise – this method has a third person mediate communication between two parties with grievances. Both parties will give up some demands in the name of an agreement. Compromises tend to achieve a low sense of satisfaction as neither party gets all of their demands.
Competition – this method is when the relationship between the parties is inconsequential. The dominant party determines that their needs outweighs the small party and as a result resolves the conflict by enforcing their desires.
What are keys to successful conflict resolution?
For most of the previous mentioned five methods of resolving conflict, it is important to be flexible and cooperative, so that points of view can be effectively communicated and an agreement can be reached that will prevent the same conflict from erupting again in the near future. For competition, assertiveness is the primary goal as the party must identify and reinforce its goal clearly so that the other side may accommodate or agree to collaborate. A party should only assert itself in conflict resolution when there is a moral wrong or they have a clear advantage and pressing that advantage will resolve the conflict amicably.
A conflict resolution where one side is too dominant or assertive or does not provide an environment conducive to communication and compromise risks causing undue pressure on the other side so that an imperfect resolution may occur, if any at all. Even in a competition scenario, the needs of the other side must be addressed for there to be any sort of actual resolution. Remember that unlike conflict management, which seeks to end conflicts as they arise, the goal of conflict resolution is to prevent these disputes from becoming a reoccurring problem for the organization or parties.