Tuesday, September 20, 2011

10 conflict competencies

Whether you are a nonviolent activist or employed in the public, private or nonprofit sector, you need these ten skills to be the best you can be. No one is perfect at all of them, but the most effective people and organizations never stop working to improve.

1. De-escalation. When tempers are flaring, who will damp down the fires and help everyone work together?

2. Principled negotiation. In a fight for power, control, autonomy, resources or rights, this is the basic method that reduces asymmetry and achieves more fairness.

3. Mediation. Here is humankind at its problem-solving best, helping the parties achieve a satisfactory outcome everyone can live with.

4. Strategic planning. Organizations form to achieve something and need help in developing an adaptive plan to make that happen.

5. Facilitation. From a simple meeting to a complex controversy, there are techniques to help the event go smoothly.

6. Conflict forensics. Analyzing conflict is a major step in how we can understand the factors that cost us.

7. Conflict transformation system design. Constructing a hypothetical program to turn around a destructive conflict is important in an adversarial culture.

8. Intercultural communication. All conflict is intercultural. We are all a member of multiple cultures. Translating from one culture to the next--whether it's a translation from Uzbek custom to American practice or learning gender sensitivity in messaging--is as important to conflict management as bringing the correct fittings and adapters is to plumbing.

9. Nonviolent communication. This is a set of skills that avoid traps and escalation into destruction, based on ownership of one's responses and respect for others.

10. Reconciliation. Whether reconciling ourselves or assisting others to do so, this is how we push that reset button and reboot relationships, again and again, in order to simply work together.

This set of skills takes education, training, drilling, reflection and refinement. It is the most ignored set of skills in most organizations and many organizational failures can be traced to a failure to develop these competencies in organizational members. Take that precious time from the daily nuts and bolts of your business to learn and improve this constellation of conflict skills and the sustainability and stability of your organization will escalate, instead of the destructive conflict that stops so much good work.

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