May 17, 2013

Conflict style and resolution

On Wednesday I shared with you the types of difficult people one can encounter online, according to expert Andrea Weckerle. As I wrap up a series of posts on her book Civility in the Digital Age, today I will look at conflict types and resolution.

Ms. Weckerle's book includes a special, five-question quiz that will help you determine your personal conflict style. This is very important as you look at developing ways to best deal with any online conflict you may encounter. For example, my result was Collaborative: The Resolver -

The collaborative approach takes a positive view of disputes and conflicts, regarding them as opportunities for growth. Winning versus losing isn't the foundational mindset, whereas finding mutually agreeable solutions that are voluntarily adopted by all sides is. The Resolver is concerned with meeting both his and the other's side's needs and wants. All parties are held accountable for the outcome. Collaboration requires emotional maturity, a willingness to openly and actively listen to the other side, and enables creative problem solving.

A benefit of the collaborative style is that the parties have an equal say in the resolution of the dispute. This results in greater satisfaction with and acceptance of the outcome. Furthermore, there is a high likelihood that the relationship between the parties - if that's one of their goals - can be maintained, or at the least that past animosity between them can be reduced. Meanwhile, a drawback is that this approach requires a high degree of trust between the parties, and in situations in which their previous interaction has been painful, trust may prove a difficult hurdle to overcome. In addition, the collaborative approach requires much more time than the other styles and thus may not be suitable for situations in which the dispute must be resolved quickly.

This result did not come as any surprise to me, once I read the description. Although I thought there were other potential results going in. Not all my answers fell under The Resolver, just most of them. Here are the other conflict styles:

Competing: The Warrior
Coercing: The Bulldozer
Circumventing: The Dodger
Compliant: The Pacifier
Compromising: The Negotiator
Covert: The Operative

Ms. Weckerle clearly states there is no single right or wrong conflict style. Knowing yours, however, is important. Even when it is other people who are causing the conflict, all we can do is control our own behavior. In order to do that effectively, we must KNOW ourselves, our limits and our abilities.

That can be hard to accept, but it is the simple truth. Once you know your style, you have a much better chance of successfully navigating the online landscape. Ms. Weckerle states, "If you remember only one things about how to approach online conflict, it should be this: determine ahead of time if, when and how to respond."

The second half of this book is, in my opinion, where the true value lies. It looks at anger management techniques, developing digital literacy, conflict resolution skills and strategies, and legal aspects of online conflict.

Last but certainly not least, Ms. Weckerle offers a 30-day Plan for Better Conflict Management Online. Some of the actions are targeted specifically to businesses, but much of the advice is helpful for individuals.

We hear (or read) often the call to action: BE the change you want to see in the world. If you care about creating a more positive online experience, this is a must read for you!

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