The Key to a Constructive Mindset in Conflict Resolution

The Key to a Constructive Mindset in Conflict Resolution

The mindset with which we address any type of difficult situation, conversation, negotiation or dispute has a great influence on how we approach them.

The mindset is the attitude we adopt towards a given subject. It can be productive, defeatist or defensive. It is easy to see how this can affect our behaviour and actions.

If one enters a dialogue with a goal of clarifying issues and consolidating the relationship. Think about what both parties can gain and prepares accordingly, it is likely to produce positive results.

In his book “The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution”, Dudley Weeks describes what the opening comments should do.

  • Try to establish a partnership atmosphere of “we are dealing with our relationship and with our conflict”.
  • Try to let your conflict partner know you are interested in improving the overall relationship while dealing with the particular conflict at hand.
  • Try to affirm the belief that options and feasible steps to improvement can be generated through a shared effort and you are open to suggestions.
  • Let your conflict partner know that you believe it is both possible and healthy for people in a relationship to agree on certain points.

Remember to set the stage in a positive and constructive manner. If we start on the right path, the rest is easier. You can always rephrase, repeat or go back to your initial statements if discussions go in the wrong direction.

In my years of negotiations, I have learned that the ‘opening statement’ influences greatly the process. I remember starting a negotiation process aggressively by advising the other party I would not hesitate to use my economic power and my rights under the law if they insisted on a hard line and principles I felt made no sense. Needless to say, that the dialogue was quite tense and difficult until I apologized for my behaviour and started to discuss issues as partners in the relationship.

In another situation, a Union agreed that I would mediate a more personal dispute between the Union executive and a plant manager before we started negotiations. By accepting, the Union showed their openness and vulnerability and set the tone for a productive dialogue. Quite a lesson for me.

The lesson we often learn is to take a partnership approach to conflict resolution. Remember that both parties learn something every step of the way. Evaluate the consequences of your behaviour and gestures before acting.

Jean-Paul Gagnon, ACC, CHRP is a professional coach, certified as CINERGY Conflict Management Coach. He is also a trained practitioner in conflict resolution. He is a mediator in the workplace and a volunteer community mediator. He has over 35 years of experience in Human Resource Management.                    

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