The relationship between communication and destructive and constructive conflict

Communication is an integral part of person’s everyday life. The effectiveness of communication process depends a lot on the communication skills of the opponents. Communication skills include a number of methods and techniques, which are applied in the process of interpersonal communication, and contribute to improvement of the information-sharing process and genuine understanding (Bellafiore, 1998). If communication is built in the correct way, it is much easier to avoid conflicts or to resolve them in collaboration, by making quality proposal. However, there are also cases, when communication is far from conflict resolving, moreover, it can be the initiating factor for a conflict.

Conflicts are so much closely related to the process of interpersonal communication, that it is not possible to treat them one-sidedly or in a narrow-manner approach. Having conflicts cannot always be considered to be tragic for communication or relationships; sometimes there are situations, when open conflicts are much better, than absence of observable conflict. All levels of communication are not deprived of conflicts – people might lack understanding and have different positions at work, at home, between friends and so on. However, this is evident, that conflicts are often critical for any relationship, they can either strengthen it or on the contrary worsen or even break completely.

That’s why it is so important to be aware of the nature of the conflict, of the way it is related to communication and of its possible outcomes for both parties. Some people, due to various reasons try to avoid conflicts, either they are concerned by their own anger and losing control over it or by transformation of the conflict into all-or-nothing situation, which would be too risky and so on. Sometimes children, if they are brought up in the atmosphere of destructive conflicts decide not to take part in conflicts in the future.

Nevertheless it is not possible to extirpate conflicts completely and they remain an integral part of many life situations, where several persons are to communicate. It is always important to pay attention to the way, how conflict approaches in order to find the way to resolve it. “For the resolution process personal feelings, as well as the manner of presentation of the views by each of the opponents are key factors” (Wilmot and Hocker, 2007). There are two major types of conflicts, they are formulated based on the results, brought by them, namely: constructive and destructive conflicts. Constructive conflicts end with some changes, which do not spoil the relationship between the two or more parties; destructive conflicts are followed by spoiling of the professional or personal relations. Effective communication can be used as a major tool for transforming a destructive conflict into a constructive one with absolutely positive outcomes. Thus, communication becomes essential for conflict resolution process. Only with the help of communication it is possible to exchange ideas and information. If the opponents were interested in a positive resolution of a conflict they would do their best to create positive interactive environment (Tannenbaum andWarren, 1983). “Breakdown in communication” is a negative factor for constructive conflict. This happens, when one of the opponents is trying to come to some agreement, using friendly approach and the other remains inflexible.

For example if to take a situation with two neighbors, having their gardens close to each other, separated by a fence, and developing a conflict about some part of the land. One believes that this land belongs to him and the other, that it is his property. One might suggest asking a specialist to define exactly the number of meters belonging to him and to his neighbor and the other in his turn would just insist on his point of view, that this piece of land belongs to him and wouldn’t agree to any compromise. In such cases such metaphors like “talking to a brick wall” are often used.

However, “some individuals believe that clarity is the solution to communication break down, but insurance of this will not necessarily bring about constructive resolution as not all conflicts are created due to misunderstanding” (Wilmot and Hocker, 2007). Sometimes it is true, that conflicts are not the results of mere lack of understanding, but because one of the choice of one of the parties.

As for the conflicts, which take place at work, involving some business environment, management of the organization cannot simply remain aside of the conflict. Most of the senior managers come to the conclusion, that in order to avoid destructive conflicts it is necessary to improve the process of communication, through development of the communicate skills of the personnel. “New philosophies and the development of management training for conflict resolution has been found to build a foundation of trust, makes for constructive conflict resolution, leads to greater commitment, and contributes to accountability, all factors that translate into better results for the organization” (Wilmot and Hocker, 2007).

Thus, we can conclude here, that communication is a vitally important factor for building positive, solid relationships. Resolution of any conflict is possible only under the condition, that communication process will be led in the correct, appropriate way, avoiding any breakdowns. Resolution of a constructive conflict is likely to support positive atmosphere and increase productivity and generate new ideas, whereas destructive conflict is able to worsen or break relations of the opponents. Thus communication should be the means, used for transformation of a destructive conflict into a constructive one.

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