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Conflict Management

Updated: May 9


I haven’t tested myself in a long while, so thought to join my students in providing appropriate yet substantive answers to the following questions.


1. Know how communication can be used to solve problems and reduce the likelihood of conflict

1.1 State the importance of positive communication as a way of reducing the likelihood of conflict


The importance of positive communication is a critical element of conflict management and requires you communicate in a way that is clear, professional, polite and fair; with consistency and awareness of cultural needs and preferences and definitely avoid the use of jargon/slang.

Positive communication builds a rapport and encourages similar behaviour in customers.

1.2 Identify how managing customer expectations can reduce the likelihood of conflict

Difficulties can be caused if customers have unrealistic expectations and start making demands such as how long they may need to wait in which case being ready and capable of providing information can help manage customer expectations which could include things like:


  • how long they may need to wait

  • explanations of company policy

  • stating your own expectations

  • clarity of information provided

  • procedure for resolution

  • timescales for resolution.


1.3 Identify the differences between assertiveness and aggression


The characteristics of assertive behaviour are being firm but fair, remaining calm, appearing confident, politeness, whereas the characteristics of aggressive behaviour are hostile words, threatening tone/gestures, confrontational attitude.

1.4 State the importance of viewing a situation from the customer’s perspective


Viewing a situation from a customer’s perspective is to show empathy. The value of empathy in this case is about preventing conflict, helping to defuse conflict, understanding a conflict situation better, building a rapport, informing resolutions/appropriate responses.


1.5 Identify strategies that can be used to solve problems


A problem-solving model to resolve situations by building rapport, finding common ground, agreeing a way forward is one of the negotiation strategies that can be used to help solve problems.

This would be in the form of a SOP devised by your employer or the venue manager and will include things such as:

  • stating expectations

  • giving reasons

  • offering alternatives

  • applying pressure

  • offering incentives

  • compromising

The concept and benefit of a win-win approach, such as an agreement of resolution/timescales and agreeing methods/frequency/timescales of communication will go a long way in avoiding conflict altogether...

2. Know the factors that influence human responses in conflict situations

2.1 Identify human responses to emotional or threatening situations


The common responses would be fear, anger or aggression which could result in a fight, flight or freeze situation often exacerbated by the physical effects of adrenalin on the body leading to a challenging or not listening state of mind indicated by the raising of one’s voice, even screaming.

2.2 Identify factors that can trigger an angry response in others


Common triggers are:

  • embarrassment

  • not being taken seriously

  • not being listened to

  • agreements not being adhered to

  • being belittled

  • feeling threatened

  • frustration

  • poor communication skills

  • limited understanding

  • English as a second language

  • physical discomfort.

Factors that can increase likelihood of triggering an angry response are:

  • intoxication

  • stress

  • personality

  • medical conditions.


2.3 Identify factors that can inhibit an angry response in others


Factors that can inhibit an angry response in others would most likely be things like self-control; personal values; cultural values; peer pressure; previous experience; fear of confrontations; lack of confidence; fear of retaliation; fear of legal consequences, fear of loss of job or other respected social role.

3. Know how to assess and reduce risks in conflict situations

3.1 Identify the stages of escalation in conflict situations


To better understand the attitude-behaviour cycle we need to look at the conflict escalation model first; how threat levels can escalate in a confrontation and the stages of escalation where frustration leads to anger, then aggression and possibly violence. This is clearly illustrated in the following diagrams.


3.2 State how to apply dynamic risk assessment to a conflict situation

A dynamic risk assessment to a conflict situation would necessitate the following stages in sequence:

  • assess the threat posed by persons, places and objects

  • evaluate available options

  • respond with best option

  • continuously monitor for changes to situation.

For your own safety it is important that you take into account the reactionary gap (space between you and the other person); early warning signs of potential aggression (breathing, non-verbal signals) as well as the danger signs of imminent anger and aggression by way of:

  • language

  • non-verbal signals

  • personal space

  • actual and potential weapons.

You will certainly need to be ready to adapt your response depending on risk (respond verbally, take action, retreat, seek advice/help).

3.3 State the importance of following employer policies and guidance in conflict situations


Vicarious liability is the first thought that comes to mind. Vicarious liability is a form of a strict, secondary liability that arises under the common law doctrine of agency, respondeat superior, the responsibility of the superior for the acts of their subordinate or, in a broader sense, the responsibility of any third party that had the "right, ability or duty to control" the activities of a violator.


In this case, following employer policies and guidance in conflict situations is extremely important as the employer must ensure a way of reducing risk of litigation and harm to self/others by providing you with information about roles/responsibilities/limitations of responsibilities and guidance in relation to courses of action. This could be in the form of what we call SOPs (Standard Operational Procedures).


4. Know how to communicate effectively and de-escalate conflict in emotive situations

4.1 Identify how to use non-verbal communication in emotive situations


To signal non-aggression through non-verbal communication would require that you are ensure spatial awareness and positioning while at the same time presenting a non-threatening posture; and at the same time being conscious of your facial expression and hand gestures.

This applies equally to the other person and why spatial awareness and positioning is so important for your own safety.

4.2 Identify how to overcome communication barriers in emotive situations


Having the right temperament and the right attitude would help including:

  • The ability to recognise that a communication barrier exists; types of communication barrier (physical, attitudinal, linguistic); use of active listening to facilitate understanding.

  • Knowing how to overcome physical barriers: by moving to a quieter location, by ensuring adequate lighting, by appropriate positioning, by ensuring adequate space.

  • Knowing how to overcome attitudinal barriers: by being assertive, by reacting appropriately in response to customer’s attitude.

  • Knowing how to overcome linguistic barriers: by rephrasing and repeating message, by slowing speech, by use of gestures, by use of intermediaries, use of augmentative or alternative approaches.


4.3 Identify ways of defusing emotive conflict situations


Developing non-aggressive, yet assertive use of non-verbal communication (facial expression, gestures, movements) to signal non-aggression; maintaining self-control; being polite and positive; showing empathy and understanding with active listening and feedback would be the foremost and being ready to request support/guidance or agreeing next steps/timelines when things to do go as expected.


4.4 Identify how to work with colleagues to de-escalate conflict situations

Working on the frontline can be quite precarious sometimes and there is always the chance that you or a colleague will engage with someone who is totally irrational and unwilling to accept any intervention or direction, hence the value in a confrontation of handing over to, or taking control from a colleague in fulfilling the roles/responsibilities when enforcing boundaries; agreeing next steps; reaffirming solutions/resolutions cannot be underrated.


4.5 State the importance of providing exit routes and space when dealing with an angry person

No one like to lose, especially in front of peers, so the importance of leaving potential aggressors with an exit route to allow for a “non-negative” withdrawal from the situation is just as important as having your own exit route available in case of physical attack.


The importance of providing space between you and an angry person who may feel threatened and become more aggressive in a confined space is not to be underestimated.


5 Know good practice to follow after conflict situations


5.1 State the importance of accessing help and support following an incident

Stress and emotional upset will almost always follow an encounter, especially one that has the potential to become violent, so the value of accessing help and support which includes reassurance and dealing with shock immediately or soon thereafter is an important factor for both employer and employed to managing absence and help with returning to work.

5.2 Identify the benefits of reflecting on and learning from conflict situations

Equally important is the value of reflecting and learning from conflict (recognising trends, being able to respond better in future, identifying preventative measures); monitoring; support; areas of strength/weakness; evaluation of approaches used; review of roles/responsibilities/policies and procedures.


5.3 Identify the benefits of sharing good practice and contributing to solutions to recurring problems

The benefits of being able to find common approaches and influence procedures will improve the company profile and adoption of alternative approaches will ensure a safer working environment for staff and customers, reduced stress; better customer experience; expansion of customer/service user base; consistent approach; reduction in claims and litigation.


Lesson Notes

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