Three key takeaways on conflict resolution

Angharad Thain, Programmes Manager at the LSE Faith Centre

Angharad Thain, Programmes Manager at the LSE Faith Centre

During the May Open Your Mind session, we had the opportunity to organise a workshop with Angharad Thain, Programmes Manager at the LSE Faith Centre, who gave us an introduction to conflict resolution by sharing what she has experienced over the years as a peace worker.

From situations in the workplace to the Northern Irish conflict, we had a great and deep discussion around topical and day-to-day conflicts; this discussion revealed key strategic insights around conflict resolutions.

1. The roots of a conflict are often more important than the conflict itself

The background and the original motivations of each side are often deeply rooted in the past, which is why it is important to lay down the history of the conflict as well as the present situation. 

For that matter you can do:

  • A timeline of the conflict highlighting the intensity and stages of the conflicts over time.
  • An iceberg analysis laying down what we see of the conflict on the tip of the iceberg and identifying the proximate causes of this conflict, the underlying drivers of those causes and the deeply rooted historical grievances of those drivers.

2. A conflict is first and foremost a matter of perspective

It sounds obvious, but understanding each other’s perspectives to is key to solving conflicts.

To do so you can map the conflict according to the different actors involved and note down everyone’s perspectives and differing agendas.

An actor map showcases all people involved, their degree of involvement and their relationships with one another. This is what we did with the Northern Irish conflict together with Angharad.

3. Knowing who you’re talking to is key

Everyone reacts to situations differently. Thus it’s important to understand how each and everyone deals with conflicts.

To do so, there are many different ways of identifying how people react.

One is called the TKI tool named after its inventor Thomas Kilmann (the Thomas Kilmann conflict mode Instrument).

It is designed to measure a person’s behaviour in conflict situations according to 5 different ways of responding to a conflict along 2 dimensions:

  • assertiveness (the extent to which the person attempts to satisfy his/her own concerns), and
  • cooperativeness (the extent to which the person attempts to satisfy the other person's concerns).