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How Build Community in our Divided World?

by | Feb 5, 2021 | Formation, Reflections | 2 comments

Probably not many are aware of the historic nature of yesterday. Pope Francis recently reminded everyone that Thursday, February 4, marked the First International Day of Human Fraternity.

A historic day

This celebration is intimately linked with the historic signing of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together in 2019. The document was signed by Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, in Abu Dhabi on the day that marked the 800th anniversary of the meeting of St. Francis with the Muslim ruler Sultan al-Malik al-Kamal in 1219.

Pope Francis has written a beautiful and challenging encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, to foster thought and action in building human community. With clarity, he points out the multiple challenges… and opportunities we face. He calls for a world in which all can be part of a “larger human family”.

I would like to share some things I learned in my quick foray into various styles of conflict resolution.

Styles of conflict resolution

Research suggests thar there are two major concerns underlying how people approach conflict – concern for self (assertiveness) and concern for others (empathy).

People balance their concern for satisfying personal needs and interests with their concern for satisfying the needs and interests of others in different ways. It suggests different ways people approach conflict. Conflict resolution styles or strategies that individuals may use depend on their dispositions toward what are called pro-self or pro-social goals.

Avoidance conflict style

Characterized by joking, changing or avoiding the topic, or even denying that a problem exists, the conflict avoidance style is used when an individual has withdrawn in dealing with the other party when one is uncomfortable with conflict, or due to cultural contexts. These avoiders adopt a “wait and see” attitude, often allowing conflict to phase out on its own without any personal involvement. By neglecting to address high-conflict situations, avoiders risk allowing problems to fester or spin out of control.

Yielding conflict style

In contrast, yielding, “accommodating”, smoothing or suppression conflict styles are characterized by a high level of concern for others and a low level of concern for oneself. When faced with conflict, individuals with a yielding conflict style tend to harmonize into others’ demands out of respect for the social relationship.

Competitive conflict style

The competitive, “fighting” or forcing conflict style maximizes individual assertiveness (i.e., concern for self) and minimizes empathy (i.e., concern for others). Fighters tend to force others to accept their personal views by employing competitive power tactics (arguments, insults, accusations, or even violence) that foster intimidation.

Conciliation conflict style

The  “compromising”, bargaining or negotiation conflict style is typical of individuals who possess an intermediate level of concern for both personal and others’ outcomes. Compromisers value fairness and, in doing so, anticipate mutual give-and-take interactions. By accepting some demands put forth by others, compromisers believe this agreeableness will encourage others to meet them halfway, thus promoting conflict resolution. This conflict style can be considered an extension of both “yielding” and “cooperative” strategies.

Cooperative conflict style

This style shows active concern for both pro-social and pro-self behavior, the cooperation, integration, confrontation or problem-solving. This conflict style is typically used when an individual has strong commitment to their own outcomes as well as in the outcomes of others.

During conflict, cooperators collaborate with others in an effort to find an amicable solution that satisfies all parties involved in the conflict. Individuals using this type of conflict style tend to be both highly assertive and highly empathetic. By seeing conflict as a creative opportunity, collaborators willingly invest time and resources into finding a “win-win” solution.

I suspect St. Vincent would most often exhibit the last style.

 

Questions of substance and style

  • How committed are you to building community in a divided world?
  • Can you identify which style you tend to?

2 Comments

  1. Thomas McKenna

    Thanks, John. A very helpful and insightful analysis….

  2. Ross

    A divided world is not unlike a family where there are damaged relationships. One of the tips I have read about recently to repair such relationships is: Look for the good in the person.

    From the Christian perspective, this sounds to me like saying, “Find Christ in the person.”

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