Ten Principles of Conflict Competence

“I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the world.”

~ Robert F. Kennedy

Ten Principles of Conflict Competence

By Craig E. Runde and Tim A. Flanagan

  1. Conflict is inevitable and can lead to positive or negative results depending on how it is handled.
  2. While people generally see conflict as negative and prefer to avoid it, better results can emerge from engaging it constructively.
  3. In order to overcome reluctance to address conflict, people need to believe it is important to do so – thus recognizing the tremendous value of managing conflict effectively.
  4. Individual conflict competence involves developing cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills that enable one to cool down, slow down, and engage conflict constructively.
  5. Cognitive skills include developing self-awareness about one’s current attitudes and responses to conflict and an understanding of conflict’s basic dynamics.
  6. Emotional skills include understanding one’s emotional responses to conflict, regulating those responses to attain and maintain emotional balance, understanding and responding to the emotions of one’s conflict partners, and when necessary slowing down to allow extra time to cool down.
  7. Behavioral skills include engaging constructively by understanding others’ perspectives, emotions, and needs; sharing one’s own thoughts, feelings, and interests; collaborating to develop creative solutions to issues; and reaching out to get communications restarted when they have stalled.
  8. Engaging constructively also involves reducing or eliminating the use of destructive behaviors characterized by fight-or-flight responses to conflict.
  9. In team settings, conflict competence includes creating the right climate to support the use of the “cool down, slow down, and engage constructively” model among teammates so they can have open and honest discussions of issues. Creating the right climate includes developing trust and safety, promoting collaboration, and enhancing team emotional intelligence.
  10. In organizational contexts, conflict competence involves creating a culture that supports the “cool down, slow down, and engage constructively” model. This includes aligning mission, policies, training programs, performance standards, and reward structures to reinforce the conflict competence model. It also includes creating integrated conflict management systems to support those cultural changes (p. 3-6).

From: Runde, C.E. & Flanagan, T.A., (2010). Developing your conflict competence: a hands-on guide for leaders, managers, facilitators, and teams. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Reprinted with permission from the OSU Leadership Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, (614) 292-3114, http://leadershipcenter.osu.edu/

Coaching Call To Action

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being low, how would you rate your conflict competence?  What can you do this week to raise your competence?