Recall that the pre-conflict stage is when an issue may be brewing, but you're not really aware of what it is. Then there's the actual conflict stage, and finally, the post-conflict stage when things are resolved.
Within the conflict phase, the very first stage is often the feeling of discomfort that something is wrong. Following discomfort is the incident stage, where something either minor or major happens to bring the conflict out in the open.
Next is the misunderstanding stage of Conflict, in which parties begin to view each other negatively based on their differing interpretations of interactions.
Let's look at some ways this could occur.
EXAMPLEYou have been preparing a large dinner for a holiday gathering. This includes planning the menu and preparing the food, both of which depend on the responses from people about whether or not they can make it. Your sister-in-law hasn't given you a concrete answer. At first she said she could attend, then she said she probably couldn’t.
EXAMPLEThings have been very busy at your job. One of the people on your team keeps sending you snippy emails. Do this, do that, where's this, where's that. You are put off by it and wonder, "Who does he think he is, sending me these emails?"
In a misunderstanding or potential misunderstanding, a party is having a reaction to an incident that has happened. Remember that conflict can start at any stage, but it's important to address it at the earliest possible stage because conflicts can escalate or de-escalate back and forth throughout the stages. Let's look at how to address a conflict in the misunderstanding stage.
EXAMPLEYou decide to talk to your sister-in-law about why she came to the gathering with three extra people that you didn't even know about. Through this conversation, you discover that she did leave you a phone message, but you never received it. The message pops up on your phone the next day.
EXAMPLEYou’ve been feeling resentful about these emails from your coworker, so you decide to talk to him about it. You might say, "You know, I'm really upset. What's with all these emails? I kind of feel like I'm being bossed around here."
Can you think of a conflict you've been a part of that involved a misunderstanding? How did you handle the situation? Did it escalate, or were you able to resolve it early on?
As you can see from these examples, if something is a true misunderstanding, it’s easy to get things ironed out at this point in the conflict. This is why it’s always best to address a conflict at the earliest stage possible.