The topic for this research is to identify the importance of the study of self-assessment and conflict assessment in the effort towards conflict resolution. The research question is “What are ways in which we can study conflict analysis for interpersonal communication?” This qualitative research is a literature review of sources that hypothesizes conflict analysis, through self-assessment and conflict assessment, provides insight to a more successful conflict resolution. Throughout this study we analyzed conflict styles in self-assessment and how to frame the problem, identify objectives, and discuss goals in conflict assessment. Successful conflict resolution is achievable with detailed attention to both self-assessment and conflict assessment. As there are varying definitions of conflict, for this research, it will be defined by Wilmot and Hocker (2011) as “an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals” ( p.11).
In Interpersonal Conflict by Wilmot and Hocker (2011) the study of communication and conflict involves learning how to identify qualities within yourself that influence your ability to interact with others; they believe this to be a crucial step towards conflict resolution (p.144). Wilmot and Hocker (2011 pp.144-191) discuss Kilmann and Thomas (1975) five style preferences in conflict which are labeled as “ collaboration, accommodation, competition, avoidance, and compromise. Wilmot and Hocker (2011) express these assertive or cooperative preferences align with goal-driven actions. Knowledge of these different responses can better your approach for varying conflicts (pp.144-191). The most uncooperative and unassertive style preference is avoidance. This style is described as a noncommitted approach that may deny evaluation of, or participation in, the conflict Wilmot and Hocker (2011) believe avoidance is best used in situations where there are other pressing matters or if the potential conflict resolutions are not important (p. 151). Wilmot and Hocker (2011) cautions that this conflict style “demonstrates to other people that one does not ‘care enough to confront’ [the conflict]” (p.152). The most assertive and uncooperative style preference is competition ( p. 157). This style is described as a pursuit of your own concerns at the expense of another by direct confrontation without adjusting to the others goals and desires. Competition can be useful in emergency situations, in short standing relationships , and when there’s a demand for the best creative ideas which result in reward (p. 157). Wilmot and Hocker (2011) explain disadvantages that comes with this conflict style preference is that it “limits ones roles to ‘winning or losing’” and “can harm the relationship” (p. 158). Wilmot and Hocker (2011) describe compromise as a conflict style preference which is equally cooperative as it is assertive (p. 145). They describe this style to be “characterized by beliefs such as ‘give a little and get a little’; parties give up some important goals to gain others and power is shared” (p. 163). Wilmot and Hocker (2011) state “compromise works best when other styles have failed or are clearly unsuitable” since it “reinforces a power balance” (p. 163). The primary disadvantage of compromise is that “true compromise requires each side giving something in order to get an agreement”. A conflict style preference that is not assertive and very cooperative is accommodation (p. 145). This conflict style preference presents the goal to maintain relationships, which is its greatest advantage (p. 165). Wilmot and Hocker (2011) say that the most common disadvantages of accommodation is disengagement, denial of needs, and potential resentment of the solution (p. 166-167). Collaboration is a conflict style preference that is the most cooperative and most assertive since it has a high value for the goals of all involved as well as enhancing relationships (p. 145, 168). If you approach a conflict with collaboration as the style preference, then advantages include the goal for conflict resolution being mutual satisfying for all parties (p. 168). Wilmot and Hocker (2011) describe disadvantages to this approach as being “time consuming” and vulnerable to “power discrepancies between the parties” (p. 171).
In the text Conflict Analysis: Understanding Causes and Unlocking Solutions, Levinger (2013) states “Self-Assessment is critical to any conflict assessment”; it is important to identify your tactics and conflict style prior to conflict assessment (p.87).
Levinger (2013) establishes:
“Conflict assessment as a distinctive stage within a larger analytical process. Conflict Assessment is primarily a descriptive rather than a predictive or prescriptive process. It provides a portrait of the context, the actors, and the driving forces behind a conflict. (p.88)”
He goes on to explain what he calls “framing the problem” or having a mutual understanding of the environment in which actors are interacting and identifying ideal objectives (Levinger 2013, p. 188-191). Levinger (2013) describes the establishment of this understanding as actors explaining their objectives, communicating and actively listening to each other, and defining priorities; you must analyze and set the environment in which you’re interacting (p. 114, 189). Active listening is defined by Bao, Zhu, Hu, and Cui in the journal titled The Research of Interpersonal Conflict Solution Strategies (2016) as taking a couple minutes to hear what your opponent is saying, rather than jumping to conclusion and making inferences about what the person is saying (p.543). In framing the problem, it’s important to focus on a specific issue or the problem statement (Levinger, 2013, p. 191). Levinger (2013) states that objectives should be clear, specific, measurable, and reflect key concerns (p.192). Unresolved conflict, intrapersonal conflict, intrapersonal perceptions, and interdependence are all critical aspects of conflict assessment (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011, p.6,12,13). As explained by Deutsch (2000) “When a person in a conflict tries to communicate openly and be inclusive of the other person’s point of view and needs, it will likely induce the same communicative behaviors on the part of the other person” (as cited in Bao,Zhu,Hu,Cui, 2016, 543-544). After your objectives are established, goals can be formed based on information observed from self-assessment and the environment for conflict. We ask questions like “What do we want?” to establish what is defined by Wilmot and Hocker (2011) as Topic or Content goals (p. 71-72). Relational goals are established by the preset relationship between actors in the interaction and how they expect to be treated throughout the interaction (p. 73-76). Process goals represent how actors wish to conduct conflict resolution, examples include popular vote or sharing discussion time equally (p. 82). Identity or Face saving goals are described goals which protect, repair, or improve the perception other actors have of you and your objectives (p. 77). Wilmot and Hocker (2011) iterate “how conflict parties formulate, alter, and explain their goals in a conflict determines to a large degree the success of the conflict experience” (p. 95).
- Bao, Y. S., Zhu, F. W., Hu, Y., & Cui, N. (2016). The research of interpersonal conflict and solution strategies. Psychology, 7, 541-545. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2016.74055
- Deutsch, M. (2000). The handbook of conflict resolution. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Levinger, M. B. (2013). Conflict analysis: understanding causes, unlocking solutions. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.
- Kilmann, R., and K. W. Thomas. 1975. Interpersonal conflict-handling behavior as reflections of Jungian personality dimensions. Psychological Reports 37: 971-980.
- Wilmot, W. W., & Hocker, J. L. (2011). Interpersonal conflict(8th ed.). New York: McGraw- Hill.