I've recently become involved with the Leadership of ICF (International Coaching Federation) http://www.coachfederation.org/ in Ireland and it's a great organisation. In Ireland we're trying to build a community for Coaches by putting on events with practical and topical issues and high quality speakers. Recently we ran an event with some high powered speakers which had conflict as the central theme. It took my appreciation and understanding of this topic to a new level. The real insight is that each Coach should know THEIR OWN PREDISPOSITION where conflict is concerned. This informs your judgement and your interpretation of vital data when it comes up in Coaching sessions.
This far exceeded my expectations. The main reason is it really highlighted to me about my own preferences in dealing with conflict. It also gave me a perspective on how we as a Nation deal with conflict especially given the recent debacle surrounding the IMF.
There are 5 styles which are recognised as the standard in dealing with conflict. These have been described by Thomas and Kilmann, check out their website; http://www.kilmann.com/conflict.html This instrument is drawn on 2 axes one looking at Assertiveness (willingness to satisfy one's own needs) and cooperativeness (the extent to which a person tries to satisfy the other person's concerns). Why is this important? It's actually a LIFE SKILL, that's why!
If you understand how you tend to operate and you know how others might operate you can flex your style to be more effective in your communication with them. This is essence can short circuit potentially protracted conflict. As humans we're creatures of habit and as such we operate in patterns. And habits are what we repeatedly do so understanding this dynamic in you and in others makes you highly skilled and agile in dealing with a wide range of other people.
If you click on the link you'll see there are 5 styles. How is this useful in a Coaching sense? You can run a self evaluating profile and then learn about the styles of others. This makes it easier to plan how to create a "win-win". This type of thinking is highly unusual. As humans we tend to be "binary" by nature (black or white) The bizarre thing is the world is a sea of grey! Mostly we run out of creative ideas when things get tough and we give up when we fall at the first hurdle! I find if you work at this you can become instinctively creative in the moment and once you have the right framework in place this gets easier with practice.
The other real value add here is as Tom Peters once said "innovation changes everything" When you think differently you come up with different ideas. Conflict dissipates and falls away in the face of fresh thinking. It actually makes us see the positions we were invested in were old and stale. We begin to distance ourselves from them.
I have another observation and that is that most conflict is due to poor thinking. We've never been taught how to think properly and so we take a position based on part of the picture. It's like an optician writing a prescription on a faulty and incomplete diagnosis. In my experience mental laziness or indolence only leads to more pain. I prefer to think things through so as not to end up scoring what I refer to as "own goals". You penalise yourself and your team when you do this. Poor thinking leads to poor planning which in turn leads to poor outcomes ( due to defective decision-making)....Yeah, that could lead to conflict!
Go on rattle my cage and disagree...just think it through first!