Personally, I believe there exists one skill in conflict management that can be categorized as the most important of all. This idea in itself sends jitters down my spine since handling of disputes-whether with the sole aim of managing them or resolving them permanently- most often involves a combination of several skills and as such one may tend to believe that there isn’t any such a skill as the ‘most important’. Consider this analogy; is there an ingredient in a cake that can be said to be the most important? If you have ever baked one, then you will know by now that there isn’t such an ingredient since to have a good and tasty cake, one need to have flour, sugar, eggs, etc. Not only are these the necessary ingredients but their right quantity must be at play as well.

On the other hand, dispute handling is yet different from the cake baking analogy in the sense that there exists one major ingredient on which the whole controversy handling approach is built on. In point of truth, this ingredient is the lifeblood of any process involving transformation.

Conflict resolution is a particular circumstance that involves transition establishment since one is required to translate the conflict patterns-whether at their inception stage or after they have matured and reached the surface-into a fruitful pattern.

Reflection- according to me is the salient skill in conflict handling.

Reflection is one's ability to truly and honestly contemplate oneself. Disputes are the consequences of egoic patterns-patterns of the mind that coerces us to act in a manner that I call 'conflict prone' behavior. For instance, the egoic bias of relativism, the predisposition to compare one’s situation, possession, or whatever is at the moment perceived as scarce with another is likely to lead one into regarding the circumstance as a ‘Me vs. You’ situation. As you will agree with me, a collaborative exertion is near impossible when such perception reigns. Now, if you have ever found yourself frowning with “of course it's a Me Vs. You situation, after all it IS a conflict we're talking about here..."thoughts dangling in your mind, then yours is a good case of what am putting across. We are so enslaved by the egoistic mind patterns that we literally let them guide the way we regard disputes.

There is never any critical thinking within a pattern, since a pattern serves as a minute thinking unit which does not enable any constructive reasoning. These patterns, though, are good time savers, since they make it possible for us to act in a predetermined way without the involvement of any unnecessary thinking. A perfect example of the positive side of a thinking pattern is your ability to drive without thinking of what your next action is going to be. Conversely, the supposed blessing is also a curse in itself, there is need for conscious awareness, without which, the driver in question will be acting as an auto-pilot. It is therefore a sure thing that to be able to create a change in the course of action of an individual, the conscience must be awoken. And this can only be achieved in the presence of reflection; it is when an individual is able to honestly contemplate about himself/herself that he/she can take notice of the pattern and hence choose to contain it.

To echo my earlier statement, if one is too captivated by the bias of relativism, he will continue battling with the other side as this is how his/her mind has been programmed by the pattern to act and subsequently, achieve the goals. But the moment an individual takes a personal initiative to reflect on his/her actions, he/she will be able to discern the fact that holding a Me vs. You attitude is probably of no benefit to his/her interests, but instead the attitude does more damage.

One misfortune though, the reflective ability completely fades away when an individual is caught up in a disagreement. This explains why most people end up acting in ways that are not in their best interests as they seem to have lost the ability to bring themselves to a halt. The ability of an individual to have a self-reflection during disputes is habitually replaced by an insatiable coherence to one’s point of view backed up by ample elucidation on why one is right and the other person’s perception is outrageous and pure hooey.

With the deficiency of awareness, it is of little use delving into proper setting of objectives, or to a lesser extent, making use of communication skills or any other known, yet feasible, conflict-handling technique. The relevance of all dispute management abilities are founded on reflection, and for that reason, it is of no doubt that reflection is the all-important conflict handling technique.

The last unanswered question at this point is the one that touches on how to create and develop reflection in the context of conflict. The maiden step is to become aware of the conflict pattern, after which you will be in a pole position to realize that you are acting within the pattern. Hold on a little, you might have detected the seeming ‘merry-go-round’ with ‘you become aware to the signs of conflicts pattern' as a basis for ignition of the reflective ability, there is need of some form of reflection, which will enable you to pay attention to the ciphers of dispute patterns. This is true indeed, but a repetitive attention will induce such an awareness that will trigger the process of reflection creation.

If you would like to read more about self-awareness and its pros, I recommend Eckhart Toll's excellent book The Power of Now. If you are interested in finding more about conflict handling, kindly visit our Resource Center and Shop where you can find posts, e-books and e-courses about conflict resolution, conflict management, sales and many other confrontational situations.

Author's Bio: 

With academic background in Economics, Accountancy, Law and Philosophy Asaf Shani is a highly experienced facilitator - consultant - trainer on confrontational situations. A Confrontational situation is a situation in which two entities (groups or individuals), holding opposing viewpoints, meet. Every conflict, negotiation, sales encounter, a difficult conversation etc, falls into this category.

Asaf started his way in the M&A division of Delloite & Touche, then in the beginning of 2001 he established Shani Mediation Inc. which specializes in consulting and training corporations and individuals.

He developed unique models like the I Win model and Unravel the conflict methodology that were successfully implemented in giant firms like IBM, Microsoft, Intel, HP, Coca-Cola, Nokia, Orange, along with government agencies, hospitals and many SMB organizations.

His hobbies include Kung-Fu, horse riding, swimming and jogging.