The Conflict Decision-Making Model


The goal of conflict decision-making is to help you both understand how conflict impacts your ability to achieve your goals, and connect your understanding of conflict to those around you. Conflict decision-making examines conflict through six core areas: 1) conflict decision-making, 2) value, 3) circumstance, 4) behavior, 5) process, and 6) visualization. Below is a brief overview of each topic.



Conflict is an opportunity to make decisions that have the power to create or destroy value. This involves making a choice between two or more actions that produce different outcomes depending on a variety of circumstances. Although all conflict involves making decisions, not all decision-making involves conflict. Decision-making is conflict when there are two or more individuals, and the outcomes have different values for at least one individual. How you approach conflict depends upon both your understanding of that conflict, and how you judge what is “good” and what is “bad.”



Outcomes are measured by value, and value is what conflict is about and why it happens. Although value is subjective and difficult to evaluate, it can be understood by how it impacts goals, subjective well-being, needs, and emotions. Good decisions are the ones that make the most sense at the time, but right decisions are the ones that have the highest valued outcomes.



The future is uncertain, but the more you know about the circumstances the more likely you will be able to make good decisions. Circumstances are what you cannot control: personal circumstances include the decisions of others in your conflict, and impersonal circumstances are those that are independent of other decision-makers, such as nature, physics, etc. The circumstances of today are created by decisions of the past, and predicting future circumstances involves uncertainty, which can waylay even the best decisions.



Behavior is the manner and method to meeting your goals. You can use behavior strategically, matching both action and communication to the conflict’s process. You can categorize behavior based on how much a decision-maker considers their own value, and the value of others. However, one behavior isn’t necessarily better than another; this depends upon the circumstances of your conflict, and the value you are trying to achieve.



Process describes how we go about making decisions: it is when actions intersect with circumstances and chance to produce outcomes. If conflict is a game then process describes the rules of the game. If you don’t like the rules you can try to change them, change games, or not play. When you are looking to choose the right process, keep in mind which process can create more value, and which process has a higher probability for success.



You can paint a full picture of your conflict when you incorporate the above parts and visualize it. Important steps to visualizing conflict are: 1) prioritize your goals, 2) choose a process, 3) connect the circumstances, 4) generate options, 5) evaluate outcomes, 6) act, and 7) review and repeat. Visualizing your conflict, even as a quick mental image, will put all the parts together and help you make the best possible decision.


Summary Thoughts

Conflict provides opportunities that would otherwise not exist. It can be greatly advantageous, but also a source of great harm when handled poorly, and sometimes even when handled well. It is up to you to decide whether conflict is good or bad – you decide whether conflict is your friend or foe. How you (and others) view conflict can affect your ability to achieve your goals, so consider which perspective makes conflict work for you and not against you.