Ask most students what they think when they hear the word "conflict" and you'll likely hear definitions involving some level of violence. Their perception is often coupled with the idea that conflict is negative; a dangerous situation that small groups should avoid. In fact, we often see such a perception play itself out in small group experiences. Students will bite their tongue and lose points or take on extra work to ensure quality instead of expressing any ideas or perspectives that may create friction between group members. In short, they work to prevent conflict from arising.

What people fail to realize is that conflict is a healthy, inevitable element of small group interaction. Conflict occurs when the group (or interpersonal relationship) finds the bounds of what they know about each other. We experience conflict in the process of interpersonal growth. Since we can't prevent conflict from occurring in our small groups, we need to equip ourselves with tools for dealing with it effectively. This week we'll start by defining conflict. Then we'll take a look at the five methods, avoidance, accommodation, competition, compromise, collaboration, and competition, we can use to address conflict when it arises.

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Prepare Yourself

Consider a recent conflict in your group. What caused that conflict? How was it resolved?

Thinking about the five methods of conflict resolution, identify a situation where each method would be most appropriate.

What are the challenges to using collaboration as a conflict resolution method?

In what circumstance might avoidance be the most effective method of conflict resolution?