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The Misunderstanding Stage of Conflict

The Misunderstanding Stage of Conflict

Author: Sophia Tutorial

Identify the best course of action for addressing a conflict in the misunderstanding stage.

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I saw a quote online that was anonymous, but I love the quote, because it sums up, for me, what misunderstanding is. Here's the quote. "I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

I could identify with that, and you probably can, too. I think we've all been misunderstood at some point in our life. Well, I'm Marlene, and in this tutorial, I would like to talk about the misunderstanding stage of conflict with you. First of all, let's-- I want to acknowledge that there are a number of stages in conflict, and people look at them differently, describe them differently. And we're going to focus on one such way of describing the stages of conflict.

However, everybody finds that there are some broad similarities in these stages, and I just want to review those with you. First of all, there's pre-conflict, and that's before something might be brewing, but you're not quite aware of what it is. Then, of course, there's conflict, and within conflict, the first stage is discomfort, where you have this vague feeling that something's wrong. Then there's an incident. Something happens, minor or major, and the conflict is in the open. And today, we're going to talk about misunderstanding, the misunderstanding stage of conflict.

So let's define that stage. The misunderstanding stage of conflict is that stage of conflict in which parties are communicating but are adopting negative views of each other due to differing views and interpretations of messages, actions, beliefs, and/or motives. So let's look at how this could occur. For example, you have been preparing a large dinner. It's a holiday gathering, and you are planning the menu. You're planning the food, and you're waiting for people to let you know whether or not they can make it.

And you have one relative. It's your husband's sister, who has been very iffy about whether she can make it this time. And you haven't heard from her. First, she thought she would cancel. Then she said she would come. Well, at the last minute, she calls and says she is coming, and then shows up with three extra people that you weren't expecting. So now you're kind of scrambling, trying to figure out how you're going to serve these extra people.

Or you're at work. Things have been very busy, and one of the people on your team keeps sending you these snippy emails, saying, do this. Do that. Where's this? Where's that? And you're just put off by it. Who does he think he is, anyway, sending me these emails?

So those are a couple of examples of misunderstandings. Now-- or potential misunderstandings. You're having a reaction to something that has happened here. And it's also important to know that conflict can start at any of these stages, but it's important to address it at the earliest possible stage, because conflicts can escalate or de-escalate back and forth through these stages.

So let's look at addressing a conflict here in the misunderstanding stage. You've been getting these emails, and they're making you feel rather resentful towards your person on your team. So you decide to talk about it. So, you know, I'm really upset. Why are-- what is all these emails kind of-- I feel like I'm being bossed around here. And you share your feeling here.

And you discover, actually, that your worker has had so much work that they've just been trying to get their emails sent and haven't been paying attention to the tone of how it might be coming across. Absolutely didn't mean anything by it. Just was trying to get the email sent.

Or you decide to talk to your husband's sister about why she came to the gathering with three extra people, and you didn't even know about it. And you discover that she did leave you a phone message, but you never received it. You never received the phone message, and it pops up, actually, on your phone message mail the next day.

So these are examples of how you can step in at this stage, and if it is a true misunderstanding, you can get things ironed out at this point. So it's always best to address a conflict at the earliest possible stage. So thank you for being part of this tutorial, and I look forward to seeing you next time.

Terms to Know
misunderstanding stage

The stage of conflict in which parties are communicating, but are adopting negative views of each other due to differing views and interpretations of messages, actions, beliefs, and/or motives.