It is important to note that strategy in managing people in conflicts is still considered by many to be a talent, rather than an attainable skill.
In a conflict, thinking about how to manage it effectively requires exercising all the same planning and engagement that engaging in the conflict in and of itself does.
However, the pushback against this type of thinking most often comes in the form of the complaints that “strategy is too hard” or that “people are unpredictable.”
Individual people may be unpredictable, but general human behavior is predictable, and outcomes from such behavior are even more predictable depending upon which conflict management behavior it is that a party chooses.
Good, effective strategy, that produces satisfactory outcomes requires intentionality.
- Being intentional means not engaging in the language of accident, or fate, or even luck.
- Being intentional means engaging with empathy and emotional intelligence, but doing so in a way that bears up under analysis.
- Being intentional means taking responsibility for the two things that are predictable, human behavior and outcomes.
- Being intentional means giving credit, taking the blame when it is appropriate, and standing up (rhetorically) and courageously, to advocate and champion for points that might be unpopular, but truthful, in a civil way.
To plan strategically, understanding three points intuitively begins the process:
- Know what you can manage in a conflict around stress, anger, fear, and failure. Without knowing yourself, knowing the other party becomes that harder.
- Have the courage to care and be curious. The number one reason negotiations around conflicts fail, is due to genuine lack of curiosity by one party, about the other party’s motives, opinions, and desires for resolution—or management—of a conflict scenario.
- Realize that the conflict process is messy and, unlike a chess game, if you plan one step ahead of the other party (rather than two—or seven) your conflict goals toward management and resolution have a greater chance of success.
There is strategy involved in attaining the skills of humility, self-awareness, responsibility, and even empathy.
Almost as much strategy as is involved in letting things “just go,” not paying attention, focusing on issues in the conflict that don’t matter, and not understanding the nature of the conflict (and the other party) that you’re in the arena with.
Strategy to manage and resolve conflicts is a skill that can be learned. Almost in the same way—and at the same level—that extending and not resolving conflict is a skill that is learned.