Copyright 2005 by Dr. Jason Armstrong and Dana Buchman
“Conflict” is a word that can have varying degrees of severity, meaning, and implication for each individual or circumstance. For example, conflict that is experienced in our current, daily lives seems insignificant in comparison to Samurai, or those in war, who faced death on a regular basis. However, it is still important to extrapolate significant lessons that have been derived from such severe scenarios, as these notions are still applicable in conflict that we experience in workplace and life today.
Conflict is unavoidable, as each individual has unique and differing thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Therefore, it is important to learn ways to minimize and manage this difficulty, in order to ensure efficient and harmonious interactions. This article provides genesis of a personal path, introducing tools and ways to minimize and manage conflict, while pointing to origin of these concepts. After an overview of these modern and ancient approaches, a discussion will follow on applying successful tools and techniques for managing conflict. These ideas can be used to help clear mind for better decision-making, and consequently, ensure a personal pathway to success.
New approaches to ancient concepts Profound strategies and lessons to minimize and manage conflict have been around for thousands of years in forms such as classic Chinese texts “Book of Change – Tao de Ching” and “Art of War”. Today, modern legends including Stephen Covey (“7 Habits for Highly Effective People”) and Dale Carnegie present similar corporate and personal tools. As many know “7 Habits” is not a group of new concepts, but age-old approaches to success and conflict management, represented in a way that can be clearly applied to modern day personal and corporate development.
Discovering origin & foundation of concepts Although many of true ancient concepts have been exaggerated or misused through incorrect interpretations, they can be applied in non-extreme forms relevant to modern day from such arts as: Zen (which is not a religion, but a path for self discovery and growth), “Art of War” by Sun Tzu (the classic text on strategy which is often regarded as most definitive text on topic), and Tao de Ching (the “book of change”). These all provide profound lessons for leadership, change, success, peace of mind and conflict management.
A workplace example – an tense group meeting debating a topic If one has to enter a meeting with a number of staff peers on a topic that is likely to require an intense debate, a strategy can be put into place to help provide a successful outcome (this should be combined with other approaches outlined below). For example, one can approach members of meeting individually prior to meeting to convey your preferred position. Once meeting has started you will hopefully already have likely confrontational people already “on-side” to achieve your desired outcome in a non-confrontational way.
The Key to Managing Conflict: bringing it all together, and applying it today All above methods (old and new) are about changing core behavior and approaches, in order to avoid conflict and simultaneously achieve personal success.
As Sun Tzu states:
“If you know yourself and know others – you will be successful. If you know others and not yourself, you will win one and lose one. If you do not know others and do not know yourself, you are destined for failure in every battle.”
These are core values, and far more important than putting band-aids on problems, or approaching things with simply a short-term change. In regard to ancient philosophies, they of course must be interpreted, and applied, using case studies and real world examples in a context that matches modern corporate world. Applied Zen (www.AppliedZen.com) is a company that provides workshops, and downloadable videos online, regarding these exact topics with a unique approach. This is achieved through implementation of physical interaction drills to reinforce concepts covered in workshop presentations. Studies have shown that learning conflict management based on physical as well as mental practice greatly increases participants’ retention, and consequently, aids in implementation (more than 2 to 3 fold improvement).