Barriers to Resolving Conflict

Posted on: May 1, 2008

Conflict is usually viewed negatively, however conflict is simply an indicator and driving force for change. If handled correctly conflict is the early stage of positive change.

A conflict does not lead to change on its own, but it is the indicator that there is a need and want for change. Conflict resolution is the process of identifying and enacting the change.

But effective resolution is sometimes difficult because conflict, by its very nature attempts to undermine any change. It is by only going through the process of conflict resolution that we can identify where change is needed or even if it is necessary.

Some of the barriers to effective conflict resolution are:

  • poor communication
  • poor planning
  • incorrect assumptions
  • pre-determined outcomes

Poor Communication

Poor communication not only leads to conflict, but it is the most significant barrier to resolving conflict. Communication is a two-part process, which involves “active” listening and “active” speaking. Both these fundamentals come under pressure during conflict and can break down. How many times do arguments end in silence? How many times do the listeners “switching off” while addressing conflict?

Poor Planning

Conflict resolution takes time and is generally highly emotional. By planning beforehand both parties are in a much better position to discuss issues rather than be caught up in the emotion of the moment. No company would instigate a change in its business model without first researching and preparing a business strategy. Why should your personal life be any different?

Incorrect Assumption

Quite often a conflict will cause people to question the motives of others involved. This can lead to assumptions that are not always accurate. Usually these assumptions are negative so they are either not discussed or not disclosed fully. Once an assumption has been established it is difficult to break because an individual will interpret behaviour in a way as to support their assumptions.

Pre-determine Outcomes

People see conflict as a barrier to change rather than a tool of change because they believe they know what changes are needed. Rather than see conflict as an opportunity to see others’ point of view or idea, people see it as a barrier to getting what they want.

These are just some of the major problems arising from conflict. Each conflict is unique and is determined by the situation, the personalities involved and the level of perceived risk/reward.

The longer a conflict goes on the greater the risk/reward. Conflict usually persists when there is either no change or change in the wrong direction, the longer the conflict runs the greater the need for change. Long-running conflicts are also more difficult to overcome, as barriers tend to snowball.

Barriers will always be a part of conflict. People must identify barriers and work to reduce their impact, thereby realizing positive change.

Carlos Todd, LPC, NCC, CAMF

Anger Management/Conflict Coaching of Charlotte, North Carolina

The east coast premier provider of anger management services


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