The 12 Universal Elements of Conflict Management – Erik Kondo

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 “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor” – English Proverb

It is likely that there will come a time when a skilled sailor is a thing of the past. Civilization will have developed to a point where the weather can be and will be controlled. There will be no storms, only calm seas. At such a time, there will be no need for skilled sailors.

There also may come a time when human conflict has been eradicated. No longer will there be disputes that arise from our human nature relating to safety, security, relationships, ideology, religion, culture, finance, politics, territorialism, anti-social personalities, biological drives, and more.  The human desire to engage in conflict will be controlled in the same manner that the weather is controlled. Controlled for the common good. There will be no rape, murder, and mayhem. Humans will have domesticated themselves in the same manner that we have the created hairless dogs and giant pumpkins.

Gone too will be our individuality, diversity, and ability to determine our destiny. Just as there is no life without death, without the option of choosing Evil, we will not be able to choose Good. We will do as we have been predetermined to do.

But in the meantime…

We need to recognize that conflict is universal whether it relates to the violence of cosmic creation and destruction or to everyday interpersonal human conflict and confrontation. Those that have the ability to effectively manage conflict thrive. Those that don’t have these skills are relying on smooth seas to get by. Their demise is just a storm away.

Effective Conflict Management involves utilizing the 12 Universal Elements of Conflict Management:

  1. Respect (Tolerance, Empathy, Consideration)
  2. Clear Communication (Minimal misunderstandings, Directness)
  3. Appropriate Enforcement (Just-Right for the situation)
  4. Truth (Actuality, Reality)
  5. Knowledge (Deep understanding)
  6. Dynamic Problem Solving (Critical Thinking, Neo-cortex utilized, Situation specific analysis)
  7. Evolution (Constantly evolving and changing, Double Loop Learning)
  8. Continuum of Responses (Spectrum, Scaling, Progressive/escalating use of force)
  9. Control of Emotions (Limbic system controlled)
  10. Trade-offs (Cost/Benefit analysis, Give/take, Negotiation, Compromise, Cooperation)
  11. Open-minded (Responsive to feedback, Open to differing viewpoints)
  12. Accountability (Responsibility, Agency, Acceptance)


On the other hand, ineffective Conflict Management involves engaging in these Universal Indicators of Conflict Mis-management:

  • Dis-respect (Intolerance, Prejudice, Othering, Labeling, Name-calling)
  • Ineffective Communication (Mis-understandings, Indirectness, Assumptions)
  • Inappropriate Enforcement (Under-Enforcement, Over-Enforcement)
  • Untruths (Inaccurate facts, Wrong data, Mis-leading statistics)
  • Lack of Understanding (Ignorance, Misconceptions)
  • Static Answers (Predetermined responses, Generalizations)
  • Unchanging (Resistance to change and new ideas, Ideology)
  • Singular Response (One Size Fits All, Non-scaling)
  • Controlled by Emotions (Emotional Thinking, Limbic system in control,
  • Fearfulness, Anger, Envy)
  • One-sided (Blaming, Accusations, Unyielding, Non-negotiable position,
  • Uncompromising, Competing)
  • Closed-minded (Non-responsive to feedback, Non-receptive to differing
  • viewpoints)
  • Non-accountability (Denial of responsibility, Non-agency, Avoidance)

Effective Conflict Management is measured not only by the result. A great Conflict Manager may still achieve an unwanted result just as a great athlete or team may still lose an athletic contest. Conversely, an ineffective Conflict Manager may achieve a desired outcome in the same way that “a broken clock is correct twice a day”.

Over a period of time, consistently using the 12 Universal Elements of Conflict Management when involved in interpersonal conflict will lead to more desirable results. Many times, effective Conflict Managers resolve the situation before it becomes an actual conflict. Therefore, their skills can easily go unnoticed and unappreciated.

On the other hand, once you are aware of the Indications of Mis-management, Conflict Mis-managers are easy to spot. In their effort to manipulate the world to their benefit, they employ the Indicators on a massive scale. The next time you read a blog or article advocating for social change, check to see which type of Conflict Manager you are dealing with.

One Comment

  1. Excellent article Erik. It ties in directly with an event that I am still assessing – what we could have done better.

    We seemed to as a group FAIL on many of the 12, unfortunately – and that is based on too many cooks, and not enough GOOD training/understanding.

    There were two mind-sets trying to solve one common problem, but BLACK&WHITE vs. GREY will never work – non-compromosing vs compromising, and EGO was in the mix withe B&W team!

    Clearly people that are in the business, aren’t trained properly – budget constraints, lack of knowledge? And people that need theses skills may not have access to them – again, perhaps not in tune, or budgetary.

    I would add that EGO seems to rule MOST decisions I see being made, even by the educated/schooled professionals, and of course amongst the responding ‘muscle.’ Without knowledge/exposure/education, a conflict is doomed by the responders that aren’t in-tune with the proper tools that you have outlined.

    Thank you for a fine article that boils it down to such a simple recipe of ingredients that we all need to be reminded of!

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