Managing Conflict with "CLASS": Today's World Is Fraught with Conflict -- in Our Work and in Our Personal Lives; in Our Immediate Community; and on a Global Basis. Therefore, It Is Essential That We Learn How to Deal with Conflict Situations So That They Will Not Escalate and Become Something That Is Unmanageable

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CONFLICT!!!!

That word alone is enough to bring on an adrenalin rush. The red lights start to flash in our head and the AVOID! AVOID! AVOID! sign goes up. When sensing a situation is fraught with conflict, most of us want to run and hide --anything to avoid having to deal with it.

In today's world, most of us realize that conflict is going to be a part of doing business --that conflict is actually a normal part of doing business. Some of us even understand that conflict has many positive side effects. Conflict has the potential to enhance the quality of decisions; clarify values; increase the group cohesiveness; stimulate creativity; reduce tensions; and reduce dissatisfaction (Johnson & Johnson, 1997). It can even be fun! Wow! Imagine that!

The problem with conflict is that most people lack skills to manage it effectively. When we lack the necessary skills for anything, we fear it. And when we fear something, we make every attempt to avoid it. Managing conflict is no different from any other situation -- if we don't know how to manage it, we experience great anxiety when it is present.

When we find ourselves in a "conflict situation", in order to be successful, there are several things we should do. These include:

* use rational arguments

* act in a way that is as cooperative as possible

* involve everyone

* value all contributions from all people

* try to understand views other than our own

We also know that we should not take other peoples' opinions personally. However, in the midst of a conflict, it is very difficult to step back, retain objectivity and remind ourselves to do all the things listed above.

Question: How, then, can we handle conflict and controversy successfully - where everyone wins, the problem is solved, and the outcome is the best one possible?

Answer: Get some CLASS!

CLASS is a system whereby a person who is embroiled in a conflict or a controversy can remind herself or himself of how to handle this kind of situation. It is, essentially a "recipe". What is CLASS? It is an acronym that stands for: Communicate + Listen + Adjust + Solve = SUCCESS.

Expanding upon the CLASS concept, one can utilize and apply the following tenets:

COMMUNICATE CLEARLY

If we want to Communicate Clearly, then we must use common terminology, so that everyone knows what is meant by certain words, phrases and actions. We should also try to keep things as simple as possible - not complicating the situation by adding superfluous information. We need to be specific in our requests and responses. We need to make sure that our non-verbal behavior is in "sync" with our verbal behavior. (For example, do not smile or laugh lightly when saying something serious.) Last, we must assume nothing - which is often the most difficult part of communicating clearly.

LISTEN LONG

How do we Listen Long? First, we have to look at the speaker and listen carefully. Listening carefully means thinking only about what the speaker is saying, not planning tomorrow's activities or writing the grocery list and NOT starting our own response to the speaker before he or she is finished.

If no other piece of information from this article sticks with you -- try to remember this: Keep you mouth shut until the speaker finishes her/his commentary. …