Conflict Management, Conflict Resolution

Surviving Disagreement in your Community-Business Partnership

Despite the best intentions of your community business partnership or of those working to achieve its aims, there will be times when conflict occurs.

The basis of these conflicts can often be something small – a minor disagreement or a personality clash. If left unresolved, however, the issue can fester and become a full-scale conflict which impacts on the health of your partnership and can even cause it to grind to a halt.

People will always differ on what needs to be done, or how it is to be done, and often with feeling. In a community business partnership conflicts can arise between members of one side of the partnership, or between people on both sides.

The challenge is to harness the debate and passions and ensure any differences are resolved amicably and equably.

It is up to those leading the partnership to work towards a “win-win” situation that will result in a better outcome for all concerned.

It is important not to confuse a "win-win’’ with a compromise, where both parties can walk away feeling as though they have lost. A win-win is where both sides work together to produce a better solution that meets both their needs.

Ten Tips to Manage and Resolve Conflict

No-one likes conflict, so here are 10 general ways to help address disagreements in your community business partnership.

  • Don’t be defeatist when conflict arises.
When trying to address a conflict in your community business partnership, think positively, and don’t think you are going to fall at the first hurdle.
  • Tackle conflict when it is a small irritation rather than a major problem.
The longer you leave disagreements to grow, the more time and effort will eventually be needed to resolve them.
  • Give people the chance for their differing views to be heard.
Show respect for their right to a view, even if you oppose that view.
  • As well as listening, try to understand why people hold the view they do.
Understand what their needs are and what they want addressed.
  • Look for a way forward that addresses both sets of concerns.
  • Seek out common ground and then isolate the exact points where you do disagree.
  • Avoid inflammatory language.
Be assertive in stating your own case, but avoid accusations and anger – don’t lose your temper or finger-point. Acknowledge that you understand why the other person might disagree or be angry.
  • Play the problem, not the person.
Tackle the differences but avoid making the argument about personalities.
  • Open up the discussion rather than close it down.
If someone says something is impossible, don’t be defeatist and agree – instead, ask what can be done to make it possible. If they say something can’t work, instead of asking “Why not?” ask them what can be done to make it work.
  • If necessary, break the problem into smaller parts and remove the areas of disagreement.
What is left won’t seem as difficult to overcome.
  • When you come to an agreement, ensure that it is clear and understood by all so that the conflict doesn’t return.

Finally, remember that finding a solution to a problem in your community business partnership is not a competition and should not be treated as something with “winners” and “losers”. Instead, you and your partnership want a solution that is shared by everyone.