Cognition and Personalization

If the conditions negatively affect something that one party cares about in the first stage, then the potential for opposition for incompatibility becomes actualized in the second stage.

Therefore, one or more of the parties must be aware of the existence of the antecedent conditions. However because a conflict is perceived does not mean that it is personalized. In other words, A may be aware that B and A are in serious disagreement but it may not make A tense or anxious and it may have no effect whatsoever on A’s affection toward B. It is at the felt level, when individual becomes emotionally involved that parties experience anxiety tension, frustration or hostility.

Keep in mind two points. First stage is important because it is where conflicted to be defined. This is the place in the process where the parties decide what the conflict is about. And in turn this “sense making” is critical because the way a conflict is defined goes a long way toward establishing the sort of outcomes that might settle it. For instance, if salary disagreement is defined as a zero sum situation – that is, if you get the increase in pay you want, there will be just that amount less for me – I am going to be far less willing to compromise than if I frame the conflict as a potential win-win situation (that is, the dollars in the salary pool might be increased so that both of us could get the added pay we want). So the definition of a conflict is important, because it typically delineates the set of possible settlements. Our second point is that emotions play a major role in shaping perceptions. For example, negative options have been found to produce over simplifications of issues, reductions in trust and negative interpretation of the other party’s behavior. In contrast positive feelings have been found to increase the tendency to see potential relationship among the elements of a problem to take a broader view of the situation and to develop more innovative solutions.

Personal variables: Did you ever meet someone to whom you took an immediate disliking? Most of the options they expressed you disagreed with. Even insignificant characteristics like the sound of their voice, the smirk when they smiled, their personality annoyed you. We have all met people like that. When you have to work with such individuals, there is often the potential for conflict. Our last category of potential sources of conflict is personal variables which include personality emotions, and values. Evidence indicates certain personality types, for example individuals who are highly authoritarian and dogmatic lead to potential conflict. Emotions can also cause conflict. For example, an employee who shows up to work late from her hectic morning commute may carry that anger with her in the 9:00 a.m meeting. The problem? Her anger can annoy her colleagues which may lead to a tension filled meeting.

Finally differing values can explain conflict. Value differences for example are the best explanation of diverse issues such as prejudice, disagreements over one’s contribution to the group and the rewards one deserves, and assessments of whether this particular book is any good. That John dislikes African Americans and Dana believes John’s position indicates his ignorance that an employee thanks he is worth $55,000 a year but his boss believes him to be worth $50,000 and that Ann thinks this book is interesting to read while Jennifer views it as trash are all value judgments. And differences in value systems are important sources for creating the potential for conflict. It is also important to note that culture can be a source of differing values. For example, research indicates that individuals in Japan and in the United Sates view conflict differently. Compared to Japanese negotiators, Americans are more likely to see offers of their counterparts as unfair and to reject such offers.