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How to Deal with Conflict

written by: Regina Woodard • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 6/30/2011

Conflicts between people and members of a group are to be expected, but dealing with conflict in a constructive way makes dealing with conflict easier for those trying to prevent it and those involved in it.

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    Dealing with conflict is a day to day event, depending on the situation a person encounters. For those in the business world, conflicts between employees, with bosses and supervisors, and others can be a common occurrence.

    Conflict between team members can actually be beneficial, allowing for different points of view to come across the table in regards to a project that's being worked on. Conflict brings up opposing ideas, weighing pros and cons of a situation which can open the floor for discussion and debate.

    In the worst cases of conflict, ongoing debates can actually derail a project, because more time is taken up by arguments instead of productive brainstorming. Discover constructive ways of dealing with conflict as a project manager working with a group of people.

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    Constructively Dealing with Conflicts

    Conflicts occur when different people have different ideas on certain matters or subjects. Sometimes different personalities are in conflict; whatever the reason for it, there are methods in which to stop these conflicts from escalating.

    The most important thing is to listen, as in listen to both sides of the argument that is being said. This allows you to hear each point of view; often times the same idea may be voiced in different ways or someone has an idea that may work with another. Make sure that you state your understanding of what the idea is: "I understand that your idea would mean having an extra set of people. Could you elaborate on that?"

    Along with listening, make sure that you - and the others - are not taking discussions too personally. While having a compassion for what you believe in is good, taking a disagreement to heart only brings about more conflict and hurt feelings all around. When you're listening, and of course making sure not to get so emotional, make sure you get all the facts surrounding what the conflict is.

    Ask everyone what they understand of the conflict and why there may be a conflict here. Try to ensure that those that are facing the conflict don't get emotional, as this will only compound the problem at hand. Sometimes a person may misunderstand the reason for another's dismissal of their idea or perhaps there is a miscommunication. Helping each person involved understand how another person thinks is important.

    Certainly be aware that a conflict will occur and be willing to note when someone is right or when someone is wrong. While someone may not want to be wrong, it's important that the project manager states why the person is wrong or at least why an idea may not work and then state some of the pros to their suggestion. As a project manager, be open to compromises between people, allowing both points of views to have a place within the discussion.

    When all else fails, do not be afraid to show that, as a project manager, you have the deciding power. This tactic should be used when people just refuse to see any point of view that contradicts their own. While in some other instance, their point would valid, having conflict that will not stop only prevents the project from getting underway, while it helps to burn bridges and relationships with co-workers.

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