Part of successful conflict resolution involves being aware of the common mistakes people make when resolving conflicts. Having this knowledge can help you avoid these mistakes and correct them in your conflict resolution process. As you begin to teach and implement conflict resolution in your school or organization keep the following mistakes in mind:
1. Avoiding conflict
2. Being defensive
3. Over generalizing
4. Being right
6. Forgetting to listen
7. Playing the blame game
8. Trying to “win” the argument
9. Making character attacks
1. Avoiding conflict. A common mistake people make with conflict resolution is they avoid resolving conflicts altogether. Avoiding dealing with a conflict can be less stressful at the time but it usually creates more problems down the line. Stress rises and resentment builds when conflicts are not dealt with effectively and in a timely manner. This can lead to the conflict becoming exaggerated. It is much healthier to address and resolve conflicts as they arise in an assertive way.
2. Being defensive. Another common mistake that people make in conflict resolution is being defensive. Rather than addressing the other party’s complaints with a willingness to understand the other person’s perspective, defensive people steadfastly deny any wrongdoing. They avoid self-reflection and dismiss the possibility that they could be contributing to the problem. Denying responsibility in this way creates long-term problems, as conflict partners won’t feel listened to and unresolved conflicts continue to grow.
3. Over generalizing. Some people blow conflicts out of proportion by making broad generalizations. When faced with a conflict or disagreement they start sentences with phrases like, “You always,” and, “You never,” as in, “You always come home late!” or, “You never do what I want to do!” Typically these statements are broad and untrue. Starting a conflict in this way is not constructive and will make reaching a satisfactory resolution difficult.
4. Being right. It is okay to have the opinion that there is a “right” way to look at things and a “wrong” way to look at things. The problem occurs when someone believes that their way of seeing things is the only correct way to look at the situation. It is important to recognize alternative points of view without viewing them as a personal attack. There is not always a “right” or a “wrong,” and two points of view can both be valid.
5. Psychoanalyzing. Psychoanalyzing is similar to “mind reading” except people are making assumptions about how other people think and feel about a situation. Often these assumptions lead to negative conclusions being drawn about another person’s thoughts and actions. Psychoanalyzing creates hostility and misunderstandings between people. It is important to keep in mind that everyone has their own perspective. Avoiding making assumptions will make conflict resolution much easier.
6. Forgetting to listen. Some people interrupt, roll their eyes, or rehearse what they are going to say next instead of truly listening and attempting to understand their conflict partners. This prevents them from seeing the other person’s point of view. There is real value to listening and empathizing with the other person. Listening is a key component to making any conflict resolution process a success.
7. Playing the blame game. Some people handle conflict by criticizing and blaming the other person for the situation. They see admitting any fault on their part as a weakening of their credibility and avoid it at all costs. They then try to deflect blame onto other people to avoid being at fault. This can be a difficult problem to overcome. It is important that everyone buys into the conflict resolution process to resolve the conflict. The point is to reach a resolution, not to apportion blame.
8. Trying to “win” the argument. Trying to “win” the argument or conflict is dangerous for conflict resolution. If people are focused on “winning” the argument, the relationship loses! The point of the conflict resolution process is to reach a mutual understanding and find a resolution that respects everyone’s needs. Making a case for how wrong other people are, discounting their feelings, or holding tight to a point of view does not help resolve conflict.
9. Making character attacks. Often times people will make character attacks when faced with a conflict. Instead of addressing the conflict, they act aggressive towards the other person. This labeling creates negative perceptions for both people in the conflict. Avoiding character attacks and choosing to respect the other person is the right way to move forward and solve the conflict.
10. Stonewalling. Stonewalling is when one or more of the people involved in the conflict refuse to engage in the conflict resolution process. This shows disrespect to the others involved and allows the underlying conflict to grow. Stonewalling solves nothing. Instead, it creates negative feelings and damages relationships. Understanding the damage this behavior causes is the first step to helping people get involved in solving the conflict.