How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others and Resolve Conflicts
In every society, human beings have developed verbal and written language as a means of sharing messages and information. The most common form of daily communication is interpersonal, that is face-to–face communication. The most basic form of interpersonal communication is a dual conversation which is an encounter between two people. Some dyads exist over a long period of time, as in marriage or partnership. Well expressed communication requires excellent skills. Communicators should be aware about effective ways of start and end of the conversation, how to respond to statements, how to express their opinions to be understood, how to be sensitive to other people’s concerns, and how to take turns and how to listen (Microsoft Encarta, 2007).
Bolton (1979) observes rightfully in the article that communication alone is not enough to achieve good communication with people. To be a good communicator and to be able to communicate efficiently with other people in a given society, it takes more than having good communication skills. The author of the article continues asserting that there are three important values that must be included or incorporated into the act of communication to be meaningful and to be termed to be efficient.
The first of these values is genuineness. This is the act of being honest and sincere and in this particular context, sincere in relationships. It involves openness devoid of ulterior or hidden motives behind those being presented. This genuineness is said to be necessary for effective communication and according to the article, to foster the establishment of good relationships. The importance of such genuineness is that it lets those being communicated to feel appreciated and respected as deserving of such honesty, and this in turn encourages them to reciprocate with the similar sentiments.
The second value proposed in the article as a requirement for effective communication is the empathy. This is the act of understanding other people’s feelings and motivations. It is that act of identifying and understanding another person’s feelings about a certain thing, person or situation. This understanding of other people makes it possible for people to accept others and to be non-judgemental of them and of their actions. This makes it possible for people to be able to be vulnerable with each other, because they can trust and not to be judged. Bolton (1979) notes that empathy is a necessary prerequisite for any functional communication and the fostering of good relationships.
Non-possessive love, according to the article, is the third value necessary for good communication and the building of functional and enjoyable relationships. Non-possessive kind of love is the extension of a non-conditional kind of love where the beloved are able to feel love and not trap or restrict other person in his/her emotions. It also involves showing enough respect to another individual to allow them to be free to choose to reciprocate the love and vice verse. It is devoid of the desire to control others but rather to respect their right and their personal choices. It involves the act of always thinking about other people before oneself. ‘Communication flows out of basic attitudes as well as though specific methods and techniques’ (Bolton, 1979). These are incorporated during communication as the context demands.
Research of Bolton holds a lot of truth in its assertion about the insufficiency of basic communication skills for good and wholesome communication. There is a need for more than the basic skills. The need to include genuineness, empathy and non-possessive love into communication is a necessary perquisite. Without it, communication would be lacking the depth. The level of vulnerability that one individual must expose to another person in order to have meaningful connections and establish lasting relationships can only be established when these factors are incorporated into communication. The inclusion of these factors is what makes communication memorable and what evokes emotions in people. Mere ability to articulate things using language or gestures complicates information flow between people.
The need for genuine conversations means the possibility of establishment of functional relationships, the development of friendship and important partnerships which are essential in the functioning of an individual. Personal career development is dependent upon the establishment of good relationships as most opportunities may be found and created through networking with other people by the formation of meaningful relationships. Business is also heavily dependent on good relationships. Personal life, including romantic relationships, is concerned and dependent on effective communication. In that respect, personal skills required to develop good communication skills and interpersonal skills are absolutely necessary for the personal development.
Although many people mainly posse one or two of the mentioned values, some individuals seem to posses all the mentioned attributes. For example, consider Peter, a young man who works at a local pharmacy. Peter is an exceptional individual in terms of communication skills. Every meeting with him leaves a feeling of appreciation, mutual understanding and comprehension. At the same time one feels that they have had a meaningful conversation. Peter is able to forge and maintain meaningful relationships within very short periods of time. He seems to genuinely show interest in his customers at the pharmacy.
The genuineness he exudes in his communication with other people leaves them feeling appreciated and respected. At the same time his manner of relating to people conveys a sense of empathy. Since he deals with a lot of sick people who come to the chemist seeking drugs, he is able to through his communication show concern for people and to show understanding for their plight. I have had the opportunity to see him deal with customers that seek to bet prescription drugs with the purpose of abusing them. Peter is very non-judgemental to them, instead choosing to decline politely to their requests to buy drugs, and instead gently counselled them and educated them about the danger of drug abuse.
At the same time, personally I would not claim to have all these qualities. Although, I am able to be genuine and empathetic as well as display un-possessive love to other people, I am not always able to do everything at the same time. Sometimes I am able to be very empathetic while dealing with people. Other times I am able to be more genuine than others. Still on the other occasions the overriding value I display is non-possessive love and respect for other people. This varies in different situations and contexts, as well as with the particular people I am communicating to. In general, I am able to display these values more easily with people whom I already know and love, such as friends and family.
Therefore, it may be difficult to express genuineness with an individual with whom I am meeting for the first time. In the same way, the context in which conversations are held may affect my ability to display one value or another. For instance, I may be more inclined to be empathetic if exposed to a situation where I am able to personally witness the plight of others as opposed to Jisu being told about it. I am also able to control the amount of genuineness I express depending on whether I am in a situation where I feel safe or otherwise. In my particular work setting the importance of effective and meaningful interpersonal communication cannot be derided. Lievrouw (2007) observes the following concerning communication in the work setting.
A special case of small-group interaction occurs in organizations where there is work to do or a task for the group to perform. Or several small groups may need to interact among each other within a single organization. In these cases, the groups must communicate well, both among themselves and with other groups, so that their members can perform their work effectively and make good decisions. Sometimes problems arise in organizational communication between supervisors and workers, or between different groups of workers who are responsible for different parts of a task. Therefore, small-group communication skills can be as necessary as conversation skills in the workplace or other organizational activities.
At a personal level, communication in my work place would benefit immensely from incorporating the three suggested values in addition to the rules of basic communication. This is because the importance of communication in any organisation is of a considerable degree. An organisation cannot function well without communication. The larger communication that occurs between departments and branches of companies are all dependent on the establishment of meaningful relationships between individuals in the organisations.
My personal ability to relate well, and to communicate effectively with my fellow work mates, represents the chance to establish relationships with them and in doing so, to foster a better and more enjoyable working environment for both myself and my workmates. Honesty and genuineness, empathy, respect and non-possessive love if incorporated into the interpersonal relationships in my workplace would substantially improve almost all relationships in workplace. This would create a good and enjoyable working environment. This would lead to reduced stress levels and would ultimately improve productivity of both myself and my work mates.
I have once encountered the display of genuineness through a young child whom I met at the bus station. She was alone and looked sad, so I asked her if she was fine. She proceeded to tell me how sad she felt because earlier she had a fight with her best friend. She continued narrating the story of their disagreement to be being complete in her disclosure of the details and in how she felt. At the end of the conversation I felt that she had trusted me with personal information and appreciated the vulnerability that she had exposed herself to. The lack of pretentious ness really appeared genuine to me.
I have experienced non-possessive love from my guardian who once allowed me to win an argument against her, although, she knew well that I was wrong. This ability to think about me and not her demonstrated a form of non-possessive love toward me.
I have also experienced empathy through Peter, whom I have mentioned above. I was sick and went to buy medication at his pharmacy. He showed a lot of concern with his words and gestures and offered a lot of encouragement as well as giving me the medication I needed. This is as opposed to many other pharmacists who would just sell me the medicine without encouragements.
Many of these qualities are evident in my family members as well as at my work setting, although, at different times and depending on different contexts. However, if everyone at my work place and my home would put all these qualities into effect then there would always be cordial, meaningful and lasting relationships between peole. It would generally improve the quality of life for everyone.
Men and Women managers believe that they handle conflicts in similar fashion. Korabik, Baril &Watson (1993) note that in the undertaken study, men and women with managerial experience reported no differences in the manner in which the handle conflicts. From their own perspectives male and female managers do not believe that they handle conflict differently as informed by their gender.
In the handing of an episode of conflict among their subordinates, male and female managers would use the same style of conflict resolution. The manner in which they resolve the conflicts would not be affected by their gender. In another study by Korabik, Baril&Watson (1993), ‘no gender difference in style of conflict resolutions used by managers was exhibited in a role play of possible conflict situations among subordinates’. This indicates that there is no difference in how men and women mangers actually handle conflict resolution among subordinates.
The evaluation of conflict management behaviours among male and female managers are, however, evaluated by subordinates differently. In the mentioned study, it emerged that ‘there is a difference in the way that subordinates evacuated male and female supervisors who used similar styles of conflict resolutions’ (Korabik, Baril & Watson, 1993). Subordinates seem to harbour a perception that men and women managers resolve conflicts differently even when studies actually demonstrate that they do it in similar ways. There is a perceived influence of gender on managerial style and especially so in conflict resolution.
The style of conflict management that a subordinate uses with a supervisor is directly related to the levels of intrapersonal communication, that are the inter group and intra group conflicts experienced by the subordinate. Fostering of better intrapersonal, inter group and interpersonal conflict resolutions methods leads to positive interpersonal outcomes and rewards. This, in turn, leads to better handling of conflicts and development of functional ways of conflict management (Hayes, 2003).
The style of conflict management that a supervisor uses also directly impacts the intrapersonal, inter group, and inter personal conflicts that are experienced within an organization. This is because the supervisor, who is the leader, sets the example for conflict resolution patterns in an organisation. If the supervisor chooses to deal with a conflict in an integrated and compromising way, then it is likely to experience positive interpersonal outcomes in that organisation. Should he or she however choose to resolve the conflict among subordinates by the use of domination and intimidation or avoidance of the situation, then there will be a consequential negative outcomes in terms of interpersonal, intrapersonal and inter group conflict in that organisation.
The levels of conflict experienced by a certain member of an organisation predispose him to approach conflict resolution in one way or in another. The higher the levels of intrapersonal, inter group and interpersonal conflicts experienced by a member of an organization within the organization, it directly affects the job satisfaction of that member. This plays a role in fostering of poor styles of conflict management. The high prevalence of conflict in an organization is also an indication of negative interpersonal and intra group relationships, and this naturally leads to bad handing of conflict management since there is no respect and no relationships between members (Adizes, 2004).
System outcomes, job outcomes, performance outcomes and interpersonal outcomes are all adversely affected by high levels of conflict within an organization be they interpersonal, intra group or intrapersonal. This is because high levels of conflicts reduce levels of relational understanding interpersonal relationships. This in turn reduces job satisfaction and negatively affects of the perception of job equity.
On the other hand, the lower is the level of conflicts and the more effective management is, and the better handling of conflicts is, then the more positively it affects system, job, performance and interpersonal outcomes in an organisation by fostering a cordial climate where meaningful relationships can be built based on understanding. In such an organization the levels of job satisfaction are high and so are the positive perception of equity and the respect of organizational hierarchy.
Understanding conflict styles is important in an organizational setting because it greatly affects the way in which members of an organization relate to each other, to their supervisors, to their jobs and ultimately affects their productivity.
According to findings of the study by Weider-Hatfield & Hatfield (1995) that managerial styles in conflict resolution have a potential to affect the organizations smooth running, the manner in which employees relate to one another, to their supervisors, their jobs and their productivity (Kagan & Evans, 1994).
I have witnessed an overly intimidating manager at a medium-sized retail store almost bringing the business to a standstill. The manager had a culture of using a combination of threats, intimidation and a domineering attitude to ensure that work was done and to resolve any conflicts that arose in the work place. If employees had an issue with how one thing or another was done, he would simply threaten to fire them all and replace them with others who would not complain. This dramatically increased the levels of dissatisfaction with the job and created a lot of intrapersonal conflicts.
Weider-Hatfield & Hatfield (1995) note, that there is a strong relation between a managerial conflict resolution style and negative interpersonal outcomes. As a result of this pent-up negative energy, the work environment was always tense and fights would easily start at the slightest provocation. There were few meaningful friendships within the organisation and employees were in constant fear of being fired by the intimidated supervisor. It was very hard for the employees to establish interpersonal relationships with the manager as there seemed to be large gap between him and other employees in terms of perceived job equity. Gradually a lot of the workers started to quit their jobs in search of better working environments.
Upon the realization that the manager was not handing the company well, its owners brought in an assistant manager to work under him. This individual would provide a bridge between the workers and the manager and he would deal directly with the workers. He immediately incorporated the use of integration in the workplace by involving the work in decision making and by encouraging free communication and an ‘open-door policy’ where he was willing to listen to anyone’s concerns and address them according. Gradually, a shift started taking place in the organization as employees realized that their concerns did matter and that they were heard. The assistant manager also encouraged interpersonal relationships and friendships among the workers which further led to reduced conflicts within the organisation. There was an increase in the levels of job satisfaction and the company witnessed higher levels of productivity in the year that the assistant manager has brought to the company. This is in line with the study results which suggest that there is a relationship between high levels of conflict and low job satisfaction and vice versa (Weider-Hatfield & Hatfield, 1995).
I have equally observed similar situations in other companies that went out of business because of a manager who did not take any responsibility but rather has an avoidance attitude. Johnson (1972) explains that the avoidance of dealing with issues on the part of management in an organisation has the potential to destroy organisations because of lack of demonstrative leadership. He asserts that a manager has the duty to demonstrate to employees how things should be done in an organization. Condliffe (2008) equally reiterates the need for efficient management of crisis and conflict resolution by managers as part of demonstrating organizational culture to employees.
The importance of interpersonal communication cannot be expressed good enough. Its use in both the organisational as well as other settings is important for the strong background of any meaningful relationships in society and among human beings. The same holds in the organizational culture that communication is highly important in the management of interpersonal, intrapersonal and inter group conflicts, which are inevitable in an organization. However, how they are handled may be the key to either strengthening of the organization or destroying it.