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Practical Negotiating: Tools, Tactics & Techniques by Tom Gosselin

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Nonproductive Reactions to Conflict

How do people in organizations react to conflict? Some adopt a strategy of denial, choosing to ignore the conflict or pretend that it doesn’t exist. They assert that conflict shouldn’t exist in organizations because we all share the same goals and objectives. After all, aren’t we on the same side?

Most people don’t enjoy dealing with conflict, so another common reaction is escalation to a higher authority. Let someone else resolve it. Still another reaction is to capitulate and give in whenever conflict arises. This occurs when someone values peacekeeping more than his or her own needs and desires. One of most insidious reactions is the passive-aggressive response, where the conflict goes underground. The person or group tacitly agrees to a change, yet continues to operate as usual—all smiles, no commitment.

Ignoring the conflict, escalating to higher authority, giving in, and responding passive-aggressively are not productive ways to deal with conflict. The underlying issues aren’t resolved, relationships are usually strained, agreements aren’t honored, and time is wasted. In this book, I explore some productive ways to deal with conflict. If you acknowledge that conflict is inevitable, then learning how to manage conflict well is critical to your success. New leaders especially need negotiation skills: “New leaders fail at an impressive rate. That’s because many don’t know how to negotiate what they need to improve their odds for success.” ...

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