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Conflict Resolution

Psychology (Year 12) - Relational Influences

Jessica Pratt

Conflict is the perception of incompatible goals, ideas or behaviours between two parties. The belief that goals are incompatible, even if they aren’t, can be enough to create conflict. In conflict, parties tend to form distorted perceptions of one another.

The three main types of perceptions include:

  • mirror-image perceptions are reciprocal views of one another; opposing views.

  • biased perceptions are when ‘our’ motives are viewed as positive and ‘their’ motives are negative.

  • fundamental attribution error is when ‘our’ actions are attributed to the situation, whereas ‘their’ actions are attributed to their personalities.

Types of Solutions

There are three types of solutions that assist in resolving conflict:

  • a solution that involves compromise is referred to a distributive solution.

  • an imposed solution is where one party is stronger and tends to impose a solution on the other that leads to the weaker party being dissatisfied.

  • integrative solutions values understanding each side and addressing motives instead of demands.

Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) provided an example involving two sisters that wanted to use the last orange, where one wanted to make a cake and the other wanted to make a glass of juice. An imposed solution involves one sister getting to use the orange and the other does not. Cutting the orange in half is a distributive solution, and an integrative solution is where one sister uses the juice of the orange, and the other sister uses the peel for their cake.

Techniques for Resolving Conflict

There are four main techniques for resolving conflict:

  • negotiation: the parties communicate to reach an agreement, where successful negotiation leads to an integrative solution, but typically involves third-party intervention.

  • arbitration: a third-party hands down a decision after listening to arguments from each party.

  • counselling: assists in improving listening skills so that both parties can attempt to solve their own problems instead of solving issues for them; is often sought during family conflicts.

  • mediation: helps parties to focus on issues so that they can reach a voluntary solution.

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