Communication and Conflict
Conflicts are best viewed as forms of interaction. Even though interactions are phenomenon which are complicated in an extraordinary fashion, this perspective helps in grasping what happens in conflicts more easily.
Effective conflict management usually leads to a productive kind of conflict interaction. Conflict can be perceived in terms of two broad phases, starting with the differentiation phase and ending with the integration phase. The differentiation phase involves interactions which present a sharp distinction between positions that are opposing each other. This first phase is usually tense and uncomfortable because it consists uncomfortable emotions, which is crucial in helping understand the different points of view of each party. Once differentiation reaches a tipping point, integration phase begins where parties start acknowledging common grounds and explore the available options towards a solution.
It is crucial that the parties involved are able to overcome uncontrolled avoidance and cycles of escalation through performing some daunting act of balancing where they would have to present their disagreements while avoiding their interactions from getting out of hand.
Differentiation can be dangerous in different ways, such that, it originally takes the conflict from a personalized point of view where negative and intense emotions are expressed. The danger is that these emotions can result in parties being further infuriated in escalation, a situation which brings about rigid avoidance. Parties are able to reach the phase of integration by avoiding rigidities in conflict. Differentiation is still an important part as it forma a basis for making of real solutions. Conflict interactions face rigidities because of the anxiety that exist amongst the parties about their emotions and being uncertain about the final outcome of the conflict.
Parties have a smooth transition from differentiation to integration phases of conflict when each of them feels as though their emotions have been fully expressed, share the belief that they cannot acquire what they want through forcing their points of view, and reach to a point of synchrony of cooperation. Parties can easily recognize when destructive cycles have started when some parties quickly accept proposals, when the levels of involvement is low from the parties, and when the interaction only discusses safe issues. Cycles of escalation can be signified by having a hard time differentiating issues, making of threats and using sarcastic tones in conversations.
There are basic principles which guide a conflict interaction. First, conflict constitutes moves and countermoves. This is because parties take different actions when they first respond to having differences. This property helps in understanding the power dynamics in the conflict interaction, because some parties use their powers in a skillful fashion. Second, behavioral patterns tend to remain continuous throughout a conflict. Cycles of behavior which are self-reinforcing cause a conflict to perpetuate. Third, conflict interactions are influenced and affected by relationships. The present and previous nature of relationship of the parties involved plays a crucial role, such that one party will always want to portray a certain image to the other and try to protect that face when getting attacked. Fourth, the context plays a crucial role in the outcome of the conflict. The history of relations between parties denotes the expectations and reactions that each party direct to another.
During an argument there are decision points which are organized around central issues. These decision points are proposed by the confrontation episodes theory model. Several tracks can be followed by the episodes and this includes nonlegitimacy, justification, behavior denial, denying of broken rules, denying of responsibility and accepting responsibility. The theory presents an understanding behind the ideas guiding the moves and countermoves. This chapter not only speaks about conflict, but also about change.
The Inner Experience of Conflict
Freud began the work of the psychodynamic perspective and it has ever since remained crucial towards psychoanalysis. The basic through is that energy needs to be managed in a certain way, by channeling it, redirecting it or through expending some energy so as to suppress the arising impulses. There are two impulses which are significant in conflict, which are the aggressive impulse and anxiety. Aggression can be managed by its expression, and also by suppressing it. Anxiety causes the parties to remain rigid.
Emotions impact conflict in the manner that it causes parties to make threats to impede and interrupt or enhance the goals of conflict management. Emotional experience involves negative and positive affect which lead to psychological reactions and changes during conflict. In order to interpret emotions, cognition remains a significant factor. Some of the negative emotions that are associated with conflict are guilt, anger, hurt and fear. Positive emotions include energy and hope. Emotions have an effect on cognitive processes, and this is why they influence conflict.
The predisposition to participate in personalized attacks as a response to conflict constitutes verbal aggressiveness. Aggressiveness is contrasted with argumentativeness which is one’s tendency to enjoy the give and take of a verbal argument. Interpersonal relationships and conflict management can be negatively affected by verbal aggressiveness. Our social knowledge influence conflict interaction, as it guides our behavior, interpretations, beliefs concerning the conflict, scripts of conflict and the frame of conflict.
Beliefs held about conflict include the assumptions which people have and the standards they follow in handling conflict. Culture has the primary impact on our beliefs concerning conflict because they are learned through interactions with other people. Conflict scripts consist the expectations about how the conflict will unfold. They guide behavior because of the scripts which parties hold which also tend to affect the way the parties interpret each other. Conflict frames are the cognitive structures which channel they way we interpret conflict. There are six dimensions of conflict frames – distributiveness, affiliation, face, affect, assessment and instrumentality.
Expectancy violations happen when another person’s behavior goes against our held expectations about how they should act in a particular situation which eventually sets up emotional reactions. When the violations are negative, they are most likely to initiate negative reactions and have a negative perception about the violation. Reward value determines the particular behavioral response that we will have, such that, if the other party can potentially reward us in the future, then the violation will be replaced with compensation, by either making an excuse or by choosing to ignore the violation. If the other party has no reward value, our reaction will be to reciprocate the violation with negative behavior.
Attribution is a psychological process which a party interprets and draws conclusions concerning another party’s behavior. It is fundamental towards interaction, especially through the attribution error and self-serving bias. The attribution error occurs when we consider other parties’ behaviors as being intentional, and our own behavior as being relative to the situation. This causes one party to interpret the competitive behavior by another party as being purposeful and selfish. This causes parties to respond to selfish competition with further competitive moves which serve as simple responses to what the other party does. The self-serving bias is the attribute negative results to forces in external situations and positive results to our own behavior. Therefore, one party would conclude that the negative result of a conflict is due to the actions of the other party and positive results come from what they do.
People tend to wallow in thoughts about conflicts which they anticipate to occur or ruminate in previous conflicts. Thinking about conflict has both positive and negative impacts. For instance, thinking about conflict and trying to create understanding of the events which unfolded has a positive effect, while running a conflict over and over in our minds, brooding over them has a negative effect. The threat rigidity model can be sued to illustrate how psychodynamic processes, social cognition and emotion interact during conflicts.
The way in which conflict unfolds with time can be described by stage models. Conflicts pass through 5 stages, which are latent conflict, initiation, conflict behavior, balance of power, and disruption. Conflict begins from under the surface and proceeds to emerge into a full-fledged struggle, before once again, moving into a period of silence. Bargaining analyses have found three stages of conflict, which are distributive bargaining, solving of problems and making of decisions. Stage models communicate the frequent patterns of a conflict and help understand moves and countermoves according to the context. Stage models are criticized and being too simplified because, in reality, many behavioral patterns occur beyond what is depicted by the stage models.
Conflict involves parties which are interdependent, and there are three kinds of interdependence; promotive interdependence, the kind that promotes cooperation; contrient interdependence, the kind that creates competition, and; individualistic contexts, where parties identify little interdependence towards each other. Each interdependence shapes the climate of interaction between parties, in terms of expectations and behaviors directed to each other. Reciprocity and compensation affect conflict interactions. Reciprocity involves a response to the other person’s behavior by trying to match it in action or form. The reciprocation of positive behavior results in virtuous cycles which orient the conflict toward positive results. Reciprocation of negative behavior results in vicious cycles which orient the conflict toward negative results. Compensation involves one’s tendency to respond to another person’s behavior with positive or neutral behavior. It has the potential to redirect conflict from destructive patterns to productiveness. It would be difficult for a person to compensate when they have negative emotions.
Tit-for-tat combines both compensation and reciprocity in a judicious manner which has the potential to direct conflict to positive results. A party matches negative behavior to signal that they are willing to strike back and they match positive behavior to signal that they are willing to take a productive approach. Compensation and reciprocity contribute to the threat rigidity cycle. Conflict framing complements processes of psychological framing. Framing helps a party to confront the underlying issues while remaining conscious about how the other party perceives their moves. Various moves which are adopted in framing interactions give different cues to the parties to adopt different interpretations.
Society is divided and this provides room for social identity. These divisions, in the context of a conflict, when more salient, tend to reinforce themselves having a polarizing effect that propels conflicts further. These divisions promote stereotyping which is communicated through social categorization processes, group differentiation and the formation of intergroup ideologies. What makes the division between groups more salient is social categorization. Group differentiation point out the similarities and values held between members in a groups and tend to exaggerate the negative values and qualities of those who are out of the group. Parties and similarities within the groups and outside the groups are made to appear cohesive and uniform than they really are. Conflict among members within the group tend to be downplayed. Groups ideologies are developed so as to offer an explanation to the conflict in a manner which favors members of a certain group and causes the other group to appear evil.
Conflict Styles and Strategic Conflict Interaction
A communicator’s claim is known as face. It is seen as a particular type of individual, and the positive social value which the person claims that they have for themselves. There are two distinct face dimensions, which are the positive face and negative face. The positive face points to the need to be respected and include and the negative face points to the desire not to be controlled by other people and have some degree of autonomy. A person can lose face when claims to their identity are ignored or challenged by other people. In daily interaction, there exists cooperative maintenance and mutual acknowledgement of face. Events where face is challenged can result in unusual, threatening and non-routine episodes. In the event where face is under threat, there will be a domination of unrealistic conflict. The efforts of face saving undermine the group-centered approach such that parties deviate from working out resolutions which are beneficial to the group.
During conflicts, there are three fundamental frames for face-saving and they depend on the interpretation which is taken by the party which is under threat. First, face saving can be framed as trying to resist intimidations which are unjust, and in such cases, individuals are faced with the concern that they will be portrayed as being weak. Their behavior will be oriented towards not giving into the party that is sending threats. Second, face saving can be framed by refusing to back down a particular position due to the fear that their prior stand on a particular issue will be compromised. In such a situation, the party will defend their face with adamance. Third, face saving can be framed as behavior that tries to suppress impending and potentially negative conflict. In such a case, the party will be fearful of confronting a conflict which would result in a humiliating defeat. Damages can occur due to face-saving, therefore, to avoid it, it is imperative to understand the how the face is framed and address the concerns which are implicit to the frames.
Face-giving happens when parties offer support to the face claims of another party and offer to work together with them to protect the face from being lost and have it restored. There is corrective and preventing face-giving. Corrective face-giving happens when a face is lost and defensive face-giving happens before a face is lost with the efforts made to prevent its loss. There are many moves which give face, and they have been termed as alignment actions. They include apologies, accounts, excuses, disclaimers, conversational repairs, counterclaims, licenses and justifications. These alignment actions can not only be used in giving face but express sensitivity towards face concerns.
Person-centered speech is the kind of communication that is aimed at supporting, comforting and otherwise confirming the hearer. It is the kind of speech which gives face and supports parties to protect and restore their face.
At their base, face-saving issues are about relationships. Whenever interactions between parties are orient on face matters, parties involved tend to negotiate how they will continue seeing each other. Usually, the qualities of relationships can be improved where people are able to feel better concerning themselves when other people have confirmed the self-image which they have chosen to value.