In Conflict, Give Yourself an "F"

Conflict can be one of the most challenging things we have to deal with in our personal and work lives. Conflict stirs up emotions and generates stress. Because of this, many of us tend to avoid it. As a result, conflicts go unresolved.
Many thinkers in the field of conflict management have attempted to frame conflict in order to help us see the choices available. The Jay Hall conflict model is a classic, as is the Thomas Kilmann model. Very helpful indeed.
More recently OD consultant John Scherer has called conflict "facing the tiger" and he has framed conflict as the 7 F's: Freeze, Fight, Figure Out, Fix, Flee, Finesse, and Face.
Thinking about my approach to training others on conflict resolution, here is my framework:
Fight - In some conflicts, we will stand firm for our position and put up a fight for it. This is different from the destructive form of fighting illustrated by yelling, demeaning, insulting, and using bad language.
Flight - In some conflict situations, we may decide to flee, especially if it looks like we will be hurt in some way. Perhaps the best thing to do is leave the field of battle and consider alternate courses of action. This is different from running away or hiding from the conflict.
Fold - In playing cards, a player may decide to fold if he thinks his hand is weak. In some conflicts, we may feel that we are outmatched by the strength and resources of the other side. As the Kenny Rogers song tells us "Know when to fold em, Know when to walk away."
Facilitate - At times, we may see a pathway through a conflict. The question then becomes, How to facilitate the parties along that path?
Freeze Frame - There may be times to call a "time out" in order to freeze the frame, so to speak, and comment on what is happening in the interaction.
Futurize - Can you help the parties in the conflict to look beyond the moment to a positive future?
Free - We can get stuck in a conflict, like an animal stuck in a cage. What can we do to free ourselves?
Forgive - Sometimes conflict pierces so deep that we carry a grudge. Is it possible to let it go and forgive?
And lastly, Failure. Sometimes our efforts to resolve a conflict go nowhere. We fail. And we may feel bad about it. Remember the old saying that "Failure teaches success." Review what you did. Reflect upon what you learned.
If we can find ways to tame the stress, and keep our emotional reaction in check, we may be able to handle conflict in a healthy way so that relationships are not damaged, but rather are strengthened.
Terrence Seamon teaches conflict resolution and negotiation skills. Follow him on twitter @tseamon


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