Why respect for parties’ needs key to effective conflict resolution ― Don

AN Associate Professor of Theatre and Media Arts at the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), Taofiq Nasir, has disclosed that in resolving conflict among warring parties, respect for all parties and their needs must be taken into great account.

Taofiq Nasir flanked by members of the Theatre and Motion Pictures Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN) at the retreat recently.

He charged all not to see conflict as a negative phenomenon, saying that conflict, which are not defined by “angry words, actions of opposition” alone, has the potential to lead to growth and aid management of men and resources.

“Some may view conflict as a negative situation which must be avoided at any costs. Others may see it as a phenomenon which necessitates management. Still, others may consider conflict as an exciting opportunity for personal growth and so try to use it to their best advantage.

“Wherever one may fall on this continuum of viewpoints concerning conflict, seldom would one expect to be in a continual state of conflict as the basis for employment.

“Organizational conflict is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests between formal authority and power and those individuals and groups affected,” he said.

He added that “conflict is good and necessary is suggested because conflict can stimulate innovative thinking when properly managed. Lacking conflicts, thought and action are performed because they are habitual. Conflicts allow an examination of necessity of these thoughts and actions.”

Speaking on the root causes, he noted that conflict is centered on the dividing line between good and evil (unselfishness and selfishness), adding that “when much attention is being given to the individual purpose without relating to the whole purpose, there is bound to be conflict and this is the genesis of selfishness.

“On the other hand, when the individual purpose relates with the whole purpose and vice versa, there will be perfect relationship and peace will reign – this is the fruit of unselfishness.”

Nasir defined functional or constructive conflict as the conflict that supports the goals of the group and improves its (group’s) performance, explaining that the argument is that if conflict leads to normal competition among groups and the groups work harder and produce more, it is advantageous to the group and the institution.

On the other hand, he said dysfunctional or destructive conflict usually hinders organizational performance and leads to decreased productivity where competing individual interests override the overall interest of the business by withholding information from one another or sabotaging others’ work, either intentionally or through subtle, conflict motivated disinterest in team work.

He listed the effects of conflicts to include inattentiveness to other things, lack of interest in work, job dissatisfaction, work anxiety, estrangement or alienation from others and frustration

Nasir noted that the behaviour responses to conflict are excessive smoking, alcoholism, under eating or overeating, aggression towards others or work sabotage, decreased communication, resisting influence attempts, adding that the physiological responses, which are often ignored or unnoticed, are peptic ulcers, respiratory problems such as asthma, hypertension (headaches), coronary problems.

For conflict to be resolved, Nasir said conflicting parties must be removed from the state of conflict to a state of harmony through restoration while indemnity conditions must be considered and efforts should be made to reverse the process by which the original harmony was lost.

While disclosed that conflict resolution is based on moral and ethical values where one or both sides must uphold moral and ethical principles, he noted that values that must be conspired by all parties include respect for all, participation and empowerment, respect for diversity in views and perspective and justice.

Explaining further, he said: “From a conflict resolution perspective, conflicts can and must be resolved by taking into account the needs of the people affected by the conflict. In other words, for a solution to be lasting, it must meet the needs of all those involved in the conflict. A solution in which one party’s needs are met at the expense of the needs of the other party, is neither just nor likely to last for a long time

“Conflict resolution is based on the view that people have a right and an obligation to participate in decisions that affect their lives. As such conflict resolution stresses that people are most likely to achieve their own goals and have rewarding relationships when they co-operate.  In the same vein, society will be more productive. This means that when in conflict, people should consider each other as allies in helping to create a solution to a common problem rather than enemies who are to be defeated.

“One of the fundamental tenets of conflict resolution is that the parties in the conflict need to respect and understand each other’s needs and perspectives. This is not only understanding and respecting people that you agree with, but also attempting to understand and respect people that you disagree with, and respecting their right to disagree.

“Most people practicing and writing about conflict resolution agree that it is necessary that solutions are just and fair.  In conflict justice can be of two kinds: procedural and substantive. Procedural justice means that the procedure for dealing with conflict is fair.”

He explained that there are three steps to conflict resolution –reflection and reorientation; reversal and restitution; and reconciliation and renewal.

In explaining the first step, Nasir said: “Identify one´s contribution to the problem. Recognize how it affected the other´s feeling. Examine one´s conscience and evaluate one´s attitudes and behavior. (Recall moral and ethical values, such as empathy, respect and responsibility). Consider how one might have dealt with the problem differently (what could be done better next time). Decide to take responsibility for one´s contribution to the conflict. Plan how to make amends.”

He added that some character benefits can be achieved from this step including releasing self-pride and guilt that penetrates wall of denial and permits honesty in facing life as well as enhances compassion for others and promotes inner growth.

Under step two, he said both sides are responsible to make the necessary efforts for restitution as assigning blame is not helpful.

“Reverse whatever caused the other to feel hurt and violated. Make restitution to repair damage done. Be open to receive restitution. Correct injustice,” he said.

He also noted that the following level of restitution should be acceptable: apology, full payment of damages, and greater restitution for repeated offenses.

Under step three, he said: “Give up claim to retaliation. Forgive and be open to receive forgiveness. Resolve to help the other to change. Foster goodwill.”

He further noted that the benefits of reconciliation and renewal include: liberating the self from hatred and resentment, frees the relationship to begin anew, and opens the way to love.

He added that the offender should admit wrong, make restitution, and continue until forgiven while the offended is to consider own faults, accept restitution and forgive.  It is important that the offender and the offended should possess some virtues that support conflict resolution.  They are humility, generosity and service.

In his recommendations on conflict resolution, the don urged all parties to avoid rumour mongering among the executives and allow a proper system of information dissemination to all and sundry.

He also called for a participatory, rather than autocratic style of management, adding that there should be adequate interaction and dialogue in conflict resolution.

He also recommended that training workshops should be organized for staff of organizations on conflict resolution procedure.


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