Critical Thinking - Resolving Conflictby Tiffany Crosby on 02/22/12
Unresolved conflict can be an even greater impedent to critical thinking than metrics. The impact of unresolved conflict on the critical thinking process are many. But we will only focus on two key points.
Unresolved conflict typically becomes emotionally charged. You become vested in being right and proving your point. Strong emotional biases is the bane of critical thinking. Critical thinking, by its very definition, requires you to be able to objectively examine different view points and supporting arguments. The intent of critical thinking is to identify problems and possibilities associated with the differing view points. If you are carrying an emotionally negative stance toward an individual, team, or group, you are more likely to take a negative view toward options raised by this party even if the option has merit. So what does this mean in practice? It means that before you engage in problem-solving, you need to:
- assess what conflicts you have with other parties involved in the process
- identify conflicts between other parties involved in the process
- evaluate the impact that these conflicts might have on the problem-solving process and identify ways to minimize the impact. Ideally, you would want to resolve the conflict. However, that's not always possible. Especially, if the problem is time sensitive and you need to get everyone on the same page quickly.
Unproductive Expenditure Time and Energy
Beyond impact the judgment applied to a particular situation, unresolved conflict can also drain resources and energy. Typically, when individuals state that they don't have time to engage in critical thinking activities such as group problem-solving, its because of unresolved conflict. Ironically, one tool that can be used to resovle conflict is critical thinking. In this case, critical thinking is focused on challenging assumptions help by the parties in the conflict. You are literally thinking about thinking and how this thinking is impacting the conflict and blocking its resolution. You're attempting to understand what factors are prompting the response that you are getting from the other party. Imagine the impact that could have on a audit meeting where the auditors are reviewing results with finance staff. If the auditors outlined the assumptions leading to their conclusion and opened up a conversation on these assumptions, many disagreements could be avoided.
Conflict can interfere with the application of critical thinking skills within the problem-solving situations and lead to impaired judgement and unproductive expenditure of time and energy. Therefore, resolving conflict should be a priority whenever working in a group. Conflict resolution should start when tension develops and not wait until the conflict reaches a point of confrontation. By that point, the emotional charge is far too strong to expect a solution that is a win-win for both parties.