Dealing with conflict

  • Options for conflict management
  • Collaboration
  • Compromise
  • Power and dominance
  • Suppression
  • Denial or withdrawal
  • People-centred and task-centred considerations

Can you remember a trip when some form of conflict took the edge off your enjoyment? You might even remember a trip where a conflict significantly affected the safety of the trip, or led to a serious accident. Understanding how conflict can arise and how to handle it constructively can make your trip more enjoyable and probably safer. Negative outcomes such as a divided group, a poorly resolved navigational disagreement or an outright morale-sapping interpersonal clash are to be avoided if at all possible.

Experienced leaders have an awareness of potential ‘hot spots’ even before the trip starts. Are there people on the trip who have been involved in conflicts on previous trips? Are there personality combinations which don’t always work well together? Are there potential areas of conflict in the route choice or the challenge of the trip?

As the trip progresses be alert for differences and potential problems. Remember, you may be looking at simply managing the process rather than resolving the problem. Particularly on shorter trips, it might be best to simply control the situation for the short term. On longer trips, however, it could be important to at least defuse the situation, and preferably to bring it to resolution. It is also important to remember that the way we might approach conflict on a trip involving friends, who know each other well, may be different to how we would approach a similar situation on a trip with a group who may not see each other again.