It is inevitable that you will experience conflict in every interpersonal relationship you have. Many people think of conflict as a negative thing, when in reality it’s not. In fact, conflict isn’t good or bad. Conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from the other party in achieving their goals. Instead of thinking of conflict as a positive or negative thing, think of it as functional or dysfunctional.
You can deal with conflict in a functional style or a dysfunctional style. There can be good outcomes or bad outcomes, depending on how you handle the situation.
Here are the different conflict situations, and how they can be dealt with functionally or dysfunctionally:
Integration vs. Polarization
When you utilize integration (functional style), it means you are thinking of the other person. You consider yourself a team. You may say things like “we’re in this together.” You realize that no one should have all the blame or be at fault. If you use the style of polarization (dysfunctional style), you see good and bad, black and white. This is the “I’m right and you’re wrong” mentality.
Cooperation vs. Opposition
When you use the style of cooperation (functional), you have the mindset that everyone can be happy. You can find a solution that will benefit and reward both parties. However, with opposition (dysfunctional) you’re thinking in terms of “If I win you lose.” This is dysfunctional because an argument shouldn’t be seen as a competition that one must win.
Confirmation vs. Disconfirmation
These styles have some things in common. They both attack something. However, the way a person chooses to handle the situation deciphers which style they use. The functional style of confirmation attacks the problem at hand. When you have a conflict, this is what you should focus on. The dysfunctional style disconfirmation attacks the other person. This will not be productive and may lead to hurt feelings. Remember that the conflict is because of a problem, not a person. If you put the other person down and blame it on them, you will not reach a solution.
We will pick up here next week with more functional and dysfunctional styles.