The Big Fight: Solve Conflicts with Little Damage
By Sayantani Chakrabarty
We have still not recovered from the Oscars 2022 highlight, Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on stage, in front of a billion audiences worldwide, live. Albeit it does seem like Chris Rock is sweeping his reaction under the carpet, some film lovers and netizens across the world are low-key demanding a smack-back from Chris. But if there is one thing, we, as a civilized society in the 21st Century must have ingrained in us, is the fact that violence of any form is not to be condoned. Will Smith not only slapped Chris Rock with a hard blow, leaving Rock and the audience in the Kodak Theatre shocked and almost betrayed, the awkward encounter was followed by some fairly abusive comments from Will’s end. All because Chris Rock, a comedian quite reputed for performing uncomfortable jokes, an American version of Ricky Gervais according to some, quipped about Smith’s wife Jada’s shaved head, making a reference to GI Jane.
It all comes down to one question: Couldn’t Will just confront Chris after he was off stage? Wasn’t there a different way to resolve this conflict?
Of course, there was. But one moment of uncontrolled rage took away from Smith’s 30+ years of acting prowess and reduced him to a meme. No one will remember that he, in fact, won the Oscar that night for Best Actor, but history will always know that for the first time ever, an actor smacked a presenter on-stage, live. If this was a lesson in conflict resolution, the scene would be an example of “What not to do in tense situations”.
Conflict resolution is an intrinsic part of problem-solving, one of the core 21st century skills. If you look at both separately, problem-solving and conflict management are two areas that are fostered with a supportive ecosystem and needs to have respectful and effective discussion in a consistent manner. Needless to say, this 21st century skill is a tool that is required by every engineer and management graduate today.
The first rule of mathematics is if there’s a problem, there will be a solution. The main focus should be on how creatively and constructively you can solve any given problem. Problems are mostly uncalled for and they can arise at any moment, making your perfectly balanced schedule a little rocky. And when the problem involves some kind of long-standing or short-term conflict, it comes with an additional dose of anxiety.
But like any other problem area, every conflict will also have its resolution. There are strategies that can help you with conflict resolution at the workplace or in any other arenas that affect your life. The Thomas-Kilmann model of conflict resolution looks at 5 ways to handle a conflict that are definitely fool-proof. If you’re an engineer or a management graduate looking for a well-meaning job, this is an essential 21st century skill you definitely need in your career.
This is the most laid-back way to handle a conflict; the most preferred option for introverts. While some situations do need complete avoidance, most matters cannot be eschewed totally. Just because you cannot confront a problem, does not mean it is healthy for the team to be working with a conflict hanging over their heads.
This is both a cooperative and an accepting method of resolving a conflict. When you try to accommodate a situation, you are neglecting your own problems at first and addressing the issues of the other party. It is a generous and selfless act, almost bordering on sacrifice. But be careful while you accommodate to the other’s problems since this method has a way of making you work on the other party’s terms and conditions.
This is the opposite of accommodating. When you want to compete as a strategy of conflict resolution, it means you want to satisfy your own demands at the expense of the other parties involved. Contrary to the intent of ‘accommodate’, this one can be called “selfish” in certain situations.
This can, most of the time, prove to be the best way of conflict resolution. This is what’s popularly known as a win/win situation. Collaborating refers to finding a solution that satisfies all the concerned parties since you have together found a perfect way out of the issue. It means all of you have identified the source of the problem and have investigated alternative ideas together, that you may not have thought of in the first place by yourself.
This may sound similar to “accommodate”, but unlike that strategy where one party is entirely giving up to the demands of the other party, “compromise” is a situation where both or all the parties reach at a solution after much negotiation; each giving up something and gaining something. Compromising is a good strategy and requires everyone to have a flexible approach to solving problems. This strategy ensures that all the parties are left with equal power, and both have willingly forfeited some of their clauses to reach a better settlement.
So, here we go. Yes! Will Smith could have solved the conflict in many ways. But he chose the one that was neither in Chris Rock’s favour nor for his at all. Let’s incorporate this essential 21st century skill at the start of your career for a better and brighter future.