What does it mean to be conflict ‘competent’

February 21, 2010

If the goal is to be competent in conflict situations, i.e. do conflict better, how am I defining ‘competent’ and ‘better’?

Anecdotally, I’d start with it meaning: to have appropriate skills and experience to deal with those stresses and pressures that come with interactions that reduce your sense of wellbeing and health. This assumes, of course, that conflict reduces or affects quality of life. I’m going to assume this is a reasonable assumption for most people, most of the time. While some people might enjoy being in conflict, it isn’t common.

To be more specific, being competent means having strengths and wisdom necessary to engage in effective, productive and generally happy personal interactions with others. Social interactions keep us healthy and reduce stress. Being skilled at doing this is a positive contribution towards quality of life.

Conflict competency is also an attitude. Attitudes include how we chose to perceive our interactions. We can be motivated to be competent or decide not to work on a skill set

This week, I was consulted by a delightful person and her representative. She was about to confront her manager and wanted advice on approaches that might be most likely to result in win/win for everyone. This was already a step towards becoming competent in handling conflict. She was showing the attitude of wanting to engage in an interpersonal interaction that would be effective for everyone involved.

She recounted the statement her manager made that offended her and motivated her to see me. Her representative and I suggested to her that how she took the statement might not have been what the manager intended it to mean. She said she had not thought of that. Her perspective opened to new possibilities and assumptions she was able to make.

It was a pleasure watching her attitude change as she became more conflict competent before us.

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