Resolving Conflict Through Metaphor

I have recently been asked to work in the area of conflict resolution. It seems that with increased stressors in the workplace such as impending change or simply people being forced to work together with others they normally would not relate to has resulted in some significant conflicts. In looking at this and reflecting on it, it seemed that people’s behaviors were creating the problem.

Whilst we cannot demand others change their behavior, we can make a choice about ours and we can subsequently increase the potential of influencing others behaviors and resolving potential and real conflict.

Our behavior is influenced by our thoughts and feelings and our self talk, leading us to make a number of assumptions about people and subsequently respond in a learned way. In other words we evoke our self knowledge and often default to particular behaviors in resolving conflict. Understanding about our thoughts, feelings and self knowledge and our subsequent behavior offers us the opportunity to change our behavior to a more constructive style.

A starting point is the Thomas – Kilman model of conflict resolution. There are 5 options in conflict resolution in this model:

  • Conflicting
  • Accommodating
  • Avoiding
  • Compromising
  • Collaborating

In order to understand the associated behaviors and their effects in greater detail, we can apply Arthur Shelley’s Organizational Zoo animal metaphor ( see attached picture). This allows us to examine and understand the  options in more depth and our default style of resolving conflict.

Continuing with this notion we can apply it to the other party’s behavioral style and work through options that might bring a better result using the animal metaphor as a reference point. This then squarely puts the personal power in our hands to enable us to resolve conflict.

This methodology is being successfully used in conjunction with narrative, story telling and role play and practice and can be  explored through one or several half day workshops dependent on organizational need. I am happy to be contacted further about this.

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