How to Clarify Our Perceptions of Conflict

How to Clarify Our Perceptions of Conflict

From my experience and reflections, I have found that most people react somewhat emotionally to how they perceive different situations and conflicts. Perception may not be the reality.

Our perceptions influence everything we do and unless we clarify them, they can lead us in the wrong direction.

In his book, ‘’ The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution, Dudley Weeks mentions that there are three critical areas: perception of the conflict, perception of the self and of the conflict partner. As he says, “We choose our perceptions; we have the power to determine what they are and how they influence our behaviours.”

We need to work with the other party to understand very clearly what the conflict is all about. Dudley Weeks shares with us; Questions to ask first and sorting the components of conflict.

I will describe them in Italics since this is the way he presents them in his book.

In later articles I will share his view on how to clarify perceptions of the self and the other Party. They are excellent questions that greatly aid in our mental preparation for conflict resolution.


Clarifying Perceptions of the Conflict (Dudley Weeks)

Important Questions to Ask First

‘Is the conflict over one rather isolated event that shows little consistency with the rest of the relationship or is it but the latest in a series of conflicts revealing problems within the relationship as a whole.’

‘Am I sure this is a conflict with the other party and not a conflict within myself?’

‘What do I think the conflict is about? What is it not?’

‘Is the conflict over values or just preferences?’

‘Is the conflict really over needs or desires?’

‘Is the conflict over goals or methods (process)?’

‘What are the components of the conflict? Which do I feel strongly about? Which should be dealt with first?’


Sorting the Components of a Conflict

As per Dudley Weeks, the idea is to identify the components we can use in the resolution process. We are attempting to identify parts of the conflict we all feel are priorities or need clarification.

I feel everyone should take the time to reflect and replay the scenario of the situation in their mind, authentically and factually. Deconstruct what you believe to be the elements of the conflict. Look at facts, describe them to yourself, they will help you prepare to address the issues. Once the parties agree on what the conflict is, it facilitates greatly the dialogue.

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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