Our Readers' Opinions
September 3, 2004
Dealing with conflict

In recent times we have been having a number of open manifestations of conflicts (interpersonal and “interorganizational”) in this fair land of ours. Some of these conflicts have been caused by apparently simple and peripheral matters, which should never have generated the level of rancour and diatribe that have resulted. {{more}}
Conflict is inevitable but anger and name calling are not. Conflicts and contradictions on simple issues should never rise to the level of antagonism. Antagonism is never the essence of the relationship between persons or organizations with a common interest and who are working towards the same goal. Conflict is given a pseudo-antagonistic character when emotion and ego are thrown into the mix.
The presence of conflict is usually manifested by:
l Strong public statement
l Airing disagreements
l Increase lack of respect
l Open disagreement
l Desire for power
l Lack of clear goals

A conflict can be destructive or constructive.

1) It is destructive when the following happens:
l When it is allowed to divert attention from other important activities and issues
l Undermines morale
l Polarizes people and groups
l Leads to irresponsible, harmful behaviour and name calling

2) It is constructive when the following happens:
l Results in clarification of important issues
l Gives rise to solutions to problems
l Causes improved communication
l Builds cooperation among people
l Helps in the development of understanding and skills

In order to avoid the escalation and/or the creation of conflict the following should happen:

l Meet the conflict head on
l Develop greater communication links
l Agree to disagree
l Keep individual ego and emotion out of the mix
l Communicate more effectively and honestly

It takes a lot of energy to generate the level of rancour that we have heard and read in the last few weeks. This energy should be expended on meaningful work. Citizens in a small country like ours need to expend more energy in a positive direction.
Conflict between members of a “family” should not serve as a source of ammunition to the enemy.

Dr. Franklyn James