Conflict resolution is the method of resolving a dispute between two parties that have differing interests. Depending on the type of conflict, the resolution can be approached using different strategies. Conflicts are common among family members and also friends. However, these situations are opportunities for growth and development since it’s from them that we learn. According to Furlong (2005), how we analyze and identify the cause of the conflict and how we effectively approach an outcome shows our ability to manage conflict.
My mother, sister, and I were all trying to figure out how we were going to spend the holiday season. We had differences and my mother wanted us to strengthen our family bond. She felt that there was no better time to try to reconnect bonds than arranging a family holiday. Initially, we had arranged visiting our grandmother in North Carolina for Thanksgiving since we had not seen her in two years. However, as we got closer to Thanksgiving week, it came to our concern that the funds were not enough to facilitate going to North Carolina as we were also supposed to rent a car.
So, we all gave up on the idea, and we were going to just spend the Thanksgiving with our own families. However, my mother sent a group message saying that she still wanted us to unite and become stronger as a family suggesting that we could cook together. My sister and I decided to sit it out since we had already purchased our own groceries for the holidays but mother said that she had purchased her groceries as well, but that family bonds and connections are more important. So, my mom said that we needed to come up with some ideas on how we can spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Conflict Resolution Model
The model that was appropriate for our conflict was the Triangle of Satisfaction. Each party in the situation was going to celebrate the holidays (results), however, we had different interest in how we were going to spend it (process). The Triangle of Satisfaction helps to identify everyone’s emotional outlook in celebrating the holiday and our personal feelings from past experiences with each other. The chosen model allows for each person to address their wants, needs, and hopes for how our families would spend the holidays as well as how we would move forward as a family. The Triangle of Satisfaction addresses and creates agreements that can be lasting.
The substantive needs in the model recognize the important factors in what created the conflict. What the parties are negotiating, in turns of processes or procedures, are considered in this area. However, according to the model, before substantive needs can be address emotional components must be worked out first because emotional needs will have authority over how a person will agree to the resolution for the substantive problems.
In the Triangle of Satisfaction, emotional needs address how a person feels about the person, the situation, and if they feel they are being treated fairly. According to Furlong, emotions and personal feelings about the situation being handled will determine how they see the issues in terms of procedural fairness and how they will approach a solution during negotiation (2005). Therefore, emotional concerns are vital when negotiating and when parties have concerns due to feelings from the past that affect the current relationship (Lewicki, Barry, & Saunders, 2016).
The procedural needs in the model allow for each party to acknowledge and discussed how an agreement can be implemented that is fair to all parties involved. This area determines the rules of engagement when dealing with the other party. It allows for the opportunity for each person to state their point of view on the situation as well as determine if each other party wants to participate in a solution.
Implementation of the Model
When trying to work towards a negotiation the focus must be primarily on the solution while acknowledging emotional and procedural needs. However, our family wanted to create a solution that would be lasting and meaningful. We decided to create a time and a place for us to work on creating a solution to how our family was going to spend the holidays. We went to brunch and started to assess our procedural needs.
Each person felt that due to our past encounters trying to attempt a family gathering with my mom, my sister’s family, and my family would create tension or escalate the problems that already were in existence. This in turn created feelings of distrust and apprehension. We agreed that we did not trust each other to celebrate the holidays in a joyous way and felt that it was safer to just spend it separate.
I asked each person how they felt that we can address our emotional needs. My mother stated that since Thanksgiving was in a couple of days it may be best to table the concerns and agree that any tensions or personal feeling be discussed after Thanksgiving. However, it was not easy to get everyone to agree so we decided to seek counsel from our local pastor who had been a family friend for so long. The pastor helped us identify our weaknesses and tell our emotions and feelings towards each member of the family. This way, we were able to give the others room for change if need be.
We agreed to this decision because of the amount of problems we had we were not going to address our personal feeling, but we had children and we knew that their needs mattered in our conflict. We knew that our children wanted to see their aunt and grandparents. My mother then stated that in good faith to working out our family issues, she wanted to host Thanksgiving dinner at our house. My mother then suggested that someone volunteer for Christmas and New Year’s dinner and that we rotate each of the three holidays with each person hosting one of the holiday’s each year. My sister stated that we should get through Thanksgiving dinner and that we would the see if that solution could be a lasting solution.
On Thanksgiving dinner, we were able to eat, play games, and interact with each other with no issues or conflict occurring. The children were able to play together, and we even decided to have secret Santa for Christmas. After our dinner, I decided that I would host the Christmas dinner and my sister stated that she would handle New Year’s. We still have not had the opportunity to discuss our individual feelings but this Saturday we plan to meet for coffee as a family and our pastor who would make us feel comfortable while opening up.
Handling conflict does not mean that a solution will happen during that one interaction or even a couple interactions. However, if all parties are willing to work together for some meaningful solution then temporary arrangements can be created. To settle our conflict, we agreed to a neutral arrangement that was based on trust of each person intention. We realized that our personal situations were impacting other people who were not sitting at that table and we wanted to negotiate with their interest in mind as well.
The question that I would ask a mediator would be is it okay to not address emotional issues to focus on the big people or should emotions be address first before you move forward towards a solution. This question come to mind because if our Thanksgiving dinner would have been disastrous and probably would never come together as a family in any future events and it makes me wonder if it would have been worth us tabling the issue before the thanksgiving ceremony.
Furlong, G. T. (2005). The conflict resolution toolbox: Models and maps for analyzing, diagnosing, and resolving conflict. Mississauga, Ontario: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd.
Lewicki, R. J., Barry, B., & Saunders, D. M. (2016). Essentials of negotiation (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
Evans, C., & Richardson, M. (2010).How to negotiate effectively. British Journal of Administrative Management, 69, 32-33