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St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center

Advancing Excellence

Jun 30 2013
Conflict Resolution, Turning Conflict Into Opportunity

A couple of weeks ago I was asked by Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs Professor Cathy Bertini to speak to the graduating MPAs at Syracuse University. Someone asked about my Maxwell experience and I noted one of the most important classes and experiences I had in graduate school was at the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC)We spent time on learning to listen, to reflect what was happening with the other party, to construct systems for creating team interactions that produced results that satisfied both parties.

During that time I was with an organization that experienced a long and painful strike. When it was over, we spent time with faculty from the PARCC at SU examining how to put the "village" back together again.  We followed a process that allowed both sides to listen to what had happened during that time, and to consider each other's perspectives.

It worked; we went back to doing what we all cared about, and got past the anger.

Every day  we encounter  situations that require us to use reflective listening, rather than reacting, to first be clear about what is creating the conflict. Examples include patients and families voicing complaints, upset colleagues, teams not working to reach the same outcomes and neighbors upset about actions we have taken without their input.

How do we as an organization use better methods in our interactions, to first listen and understand before we react? Conflict resolution comes up in our employee engagement surveys as an area where we need to do a better job. 

So what can we do? Here is some information that may be helpful:

Conflict 101 (from Conflict Resolution: A help guide)

  • A conflict is more than just a disagreement. It is a situation in which one or both parties perceive a threat (whether or not the threat is real).
  • Conflicts continue to fester when ignored. Because conflicts involve perceived threats to our well-being and survival, they stay with us until we face and resolve them.
  • We respond to conflicts based on our perceptions of the situation, not necessarily to an objective review of the facts. Our perceptions are influenced by our life experiences, culture, values, and beliefs.
  • Conflicts trigger strong emotions. If you aren’t comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them in times of stress, you won’t be able to resolve conflict successfully.
  • Conflicts are an opportunity for growth. When you’re able to resolve conflict in a relationship, it builds trust. You can feel secure knowing your relationship can survive challenges and disagreements.

This is an area that we need to spend more time on as an organization, and your ideas are welcomed! As a leader how do you model good conflict resolutions skills? 

For more info  . 

Happy 4th of July! 


3 Comments so far

Elena Stipanovic July 1, 2013 at 11:15 am

this is a very important topic, especially in these times of limited resources and a not yet fully restored economy. Superimpose an ill family member and things can get heated very quickly. Please remember that we have a highly trained department of Master Level Social Workers who are well versed in conflict resolution. We not only work with patients and families but are often a resource for staff, offering support and guidance for their professional and personal questions.

Kathryn Ruscitto July 1, 2013 at 11:29 am

Great reminder! We need more people to know who our resources are internally, and how do we offer additional training for teams. It's such an important skill set, and helps in our personal lives as well!

Betsy Bedigian July 2, 2013 at 01:24 pm

Excellent discussion of an important topic. Will find a way through management meetings and Huddles to lift up the discussion, especially reflective listening.

The information provided on this site should not be taken as medical advice. As always, we strongly recommend that you consult with a physician if you have any medical concerns.