Conflict and Assertiveness

Part 2 – Coping Strategies for Conflict Following up from last week’s article about conflict, this week we briefly discuss coping strategies with a focus on our own behaviour towards the conflict, that of assertion, or non assertion and the consequences of the behaviour we choose.

Firstly, analyse the conflict. Ask questions. The first step in managing conflict is to analyse the nature and type of conflict.  Then you need to gain a general understanding of the conflict, you will need to analyse and select the most appropriate strategy.  This will help to move the situation toward consensus.

Some Conflict Management Strategies include: Collaboration – which we can correlate with assertion Compromise – which we can correlate with assertion Accommodation – which we can correlate with assertion Avoidance – which we can correlate with non assertive behaviour

Definitions: Assertiveness – standing up for your rights in a way that respects the other people involved

Aggression – standing up for your rights in a way that violates the rights of others

Non Assertion – failing to stand up for your rights or doing so in a way that others can disregard them

Collaboration – The desired outcome is “win/win.” This approach helps to build commitment and reduce bad feeling by working together to examine the facts of the matter and dealing only with them to achieve a joint satisfactory solution.  This, however, takes time, energy and commitment. This is regarded as the best approach for managing conflict, the objective of collaboration is to reach consensus.  Assertive behaviour here ensures that you satisfy the needs and wants of both parties.

Compromise – The desired outcome is “win some/lose some.” This approach is generally used to achieve temporary solutions, to avoid destructive power struggles or when time pressures exist. However, a potential pitfall is that people can lose sight of important values and long-term objectives. The use of assertive behaviour here ensures that a solution is reached that satisfies the current need, but it is done so fairly and factually.

Avoidance – The outcome is “lose/lose.” This approach is correlated with non assertive behaviour as parties involved avoid searching for solutions, often being overly concerned with what people think of them or indirectly thwart attempts to resolve the issue. This may be done because of a lack of understanding of the real issue, due to past unresolved issues or a direct, definite attempt to not resolve the issue. A negative outcome of avoidance and non assertion is that important decisions may be made by default.

General rules for resolving conflict using assertive behaviour Organisation – Agreed times and places to meet must be jointly established, people must be encouraged to attend. In addition, minutes must be taken so that information can be distributed before and after meetings.

Ground rules and agenda – The parties involved must agree on ground rules for communication, negotiation and decision making. They should agree on the objectives of the negotiation process. An agenda of issues to be covered needs to be developed.

Collective fact-finding – The parties involved must agree on what information is relevant to the conflict. This should include what is known and not known, that is, the parties must gather and collect the facts, and nothing but the facts. Agreement is also needed on how to gather and assimilate this information.

Evaluation – Only after the parties involved have finished listing solution options, should the options be discussed. Determine together which objective ideas are best for satisfying the various parties interests. It is useful to combine the different opinions of the involved parties to come up with acceptable proposals.

Written agreement – Is recommended to document areas of agreement and disagreement to ensure common understanding. This helps ensure that agreements can be remembered and communicated clearly. Commitment – Every involved party must be confident that the others will carry out their part of the agreement. Discuss and agree upon methods to ensure partners understand and honour their commitments.

Separate people from the problem. When negotiating, remember you’re dealing with people who have their own unique needs, emotions and perceptions.

In summary Some conflicts are based on differences in thinking and perceptions. These conflicts may exist mainly in peoples’ minds. It helps for each party to put themselves into the other’s shoes so they can understand each other’s point of view.  Adopting assertive behaviour in these situations ensures that one sticks to the facts and remains objective.  Identify and openly discuss differences in perceptions, being careful not to place blame. In addition, recognise and understand the other side’s emotions as well as your own. To overcome obstacles, view the situation through the eyes of different partners. Focus on shared interests to make the process smoother for all involved. Look for meaningful opportunities, not simple solutions and ensure that you portray assertive body language and an even voice tone.

“The only healthy communication style is assertive communication”. Jim Rohn, 2008 Flourish Coaching provides group or 1:1 conflict management and assertiveness programs.


Please call on 0879178717 / or visit our website www.flourishcoaching.ie for more information Thank You © Flourish Coaching 2009

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