Conflict Management: the Main Attitudes Towards Contradiction and Conflicts

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Conflict Management: Assertivenes and Other Attitudes Towards Conflicts

As we have seen in our "Introduction to Conflict Management in the Workplace", assertiveness may be regarded as the ideal attitude in difficult situations and/or conflicts. Moreover, it can be assumed that there are four main attitudes we may adopt when dealing with contradictions and conflicts, whether in the workplace or in social life:

1. Flight: Not daring to say what one wants to obtain, capitulating when faced with contradictions, avoiding conflicts at all costs. Flight may take on honorable attributes: selflessness, modesty, conciliation, politeness, sense of discipline, etc.

A few quotes to illustrate the point:

  • "It’s not worth making a fuss about it"
  • "Sometimes, it’s ok to give up…"
  • "Better smile than whine like a loser"
  • "I don’t want to be a complainer"
  • "I don’t want to slow down the pace of the discussion with non-constructive interventions"
  • "In order to criticize, you need to have alternative ideas to offer"

2. Attack: Trying to impose one’s agenda without taking into account the wishes of others and trying at all costs to come out as a winner. This attitude can lead to autocratic tendencies and to a display of coldness and intolerance for errors. It may consist in speaking loudly, interrupting one’s interlocutors, making distracting noise while others are speaking, trying to dominate the conversation, wearing an ironic smile while showing disapproval with one’s facial expressions.

A few quotes to illustrate the point:

  • "You have to be strong. It’s a tough world out there!"
  • "I prefer being a wolf than a lamb"
  • "Life is a struggle. It’s eat or be eaten!"
  • "Attack is the best form of defense"

3. Manipulation: Hiding one’s agenda and using devious means to achieve it. This attitude is about using concealment, insinuation, guilt, etc. It eventually leads to a complete loss of credibility, as well as social disqualification and failure, due to lack of mutual trust.

A few quotes to illustrate the point:

  • "Others don’t know how to take advantage of the system"
  • "You’ve got to be smart to get what you want"
  • "One should not put one’s trust in man"

4. Harmonious assertiveness: Being honest about one’s agenda while accepting contradiction and the search for a compromise. Assertiveness aims to explore relationships in order to achieve a win-win situation. It is a state of mind, a philosophy of life that consists in making room for the needs of others while not yielding unconditionally to them.

This attitude may be developed by:

  • Practicing active listening (definition) and paying attention to the non-verbal forms of communication
  • Formulating critics aimed at a change in behavior, when confronted with aggressiveness or an attempt at manipulation
  • Accepting the critics of others, whether justified or not
  • Complimenting people, whenever it is possible to do so sincerely

We should obviously primarily focus on our own attitudes rather than seek to categorize the attitudes of others. Human beings are certainly too complex to simply be classified into a few categories. Moreover, we may find ourselves adopting anyone of these attitudes, depending on the situation. We will go deeper into that subject in the next article: "Conflict Management: Self-Assessment Questionnaire".

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