Mindful Conflict Management in Hong Kong and China

Note on how to cite this journal:

Author, Date of the post, WMO Conflict Insight, Title of the post,  ISSN: 2628-6998, https://worldmediation.org/conflict-insight 

Conflict exists all over the world and even in its remotest corners. Whenever people get together, conflict will occur in their private or professional lives. Individuals generally are able to simply walk away from a person or from several persons whenever a conflict issue raises. But what should we do if it happens to exist in a business context? Can we just leave our colleagues, co-workers or counterparts in order to get rid of conflict? My answer is absolutely no.

Basically we may say that the way you see a conflict, depends of your own view point, experiences and / or personality. Of course, it also depends on whether the conflict manager is capable of truly handle the conflict. Some people see it as toxic matter and wish to keep distance from that. Other people see it as natural matter that happens and that simply belongs to life. So, in our everyday life, it is not unusual to see conflict in workplace. If a manager wishes to stay away from conflict, it is absolutely easy. However, we must expect that the following problems may be enormous. Such a manager chooses the avoidance of conflict in order to resolve the issue, while the true reason for doing so might be the fear of failing within the process of handling it. Another type of managers understands conflict to be a development supporting tool in order to initiate challenges within the staff. I believe that truly progressive managers prefer positive management skills and avoid such tension creating scenarios.

It is a matter of fact that conflict managers should first analyze possible consequences of their intervention. It is obvious that the three commonly known consequences are lose-lose, win-lose and win-win situations. I never agreed with the lose-lose approach as it hurts both parties and may lead to a state of a long term competition. It is not healthy to the organization itself and it causes actual loss as well. Many people claim to understand the harm of lose-lose approach but why do they still do it? It is absolutely not a peace or harmony supportive tool. Is it about selfishness only? I don’t think so. I am sure that it is all about the capability and personality of the person in charge of handling it. For the win-lose approach, I dare to say that it is a selfish act because the “win” side puts the negative result at the counterpart’s expense. This procedure may also be seen as an aggressive act focussing on gaining at all costs. Is it proactive enough? Probably yes. It is also harmful to some parties and not a matter about positive handling skills. Notwithstanding most people see it as shabby and contemptible means to settle a matter, many people like to adopt such a concept right away. I think it is not about a positive attitude but about a universal value that states that no one should act in this way.

So what about the best way to handle or to resolve a conflict? I believe that mainly everyone will choose the term win-win approach. I think that no one will reject this approach and due to my personal experiences I may confirm that it is the best way to solve the problems caused by conflict. Win-win is really a lovely and pleasant term that all people love to hear. Of course, this term implies that everyone can obtain something. Why not? In my view point, this approach is good enough to make sure that both parties who engaged in conflict may solve the problems and maintain good atmosphere. It can also maintain good relationship, at least in a short term. It is common that all parties involved may benefit by a solution created as a result of the mediator’s and their own efforts. It is positive and mindful indeed. But analyzing this context even more, I still see something odd. We all know that being in conflict, the parties target on achieving a win-win situation. In order to support this aim, all parties involved should make some concessions on their original plans. And getting there, the procedure itself often demands taking a step forward or backward, until a settlement is achieved. I often witness that there are some people who support the achievement of a positive outcome more than others. However, it looks like the best way to resolve a conflict and no one dares to say that it’s not mindful. The mediator should make the best endeavor to ensure that both parties can get something positive out of the conflict, specifically not below their preset minimum acceptable line. So, a win-win situation becomes the mediator’s ultimate goal as it is believed to be the best way to help both parties to come to a compromise.

There is a special and somewhat weird idea that comes up to my mind thinking about the best way to resolve conflict. It is no loss-no loss approach. That means no one needs to make concessions over conflict. It’s even better than the win-win approach. I understand that it can only be seen in Utopia. Anyway, it’s mindful enough.

Traditionally, Confucianism planted deep-seated influence over Chinese. We of course wish to gain something that we are hungry for. However, we would not want to do anything harmful to other parties. It sounds like contradictory and somewhat like mental disorder. Actually, it is similar to the Western win-win approach concept. In the early 80’s, Western management style emerged in Hong Kong gradually. At that time, quite a lot of educated or open minded Hong Kong Chinese were generally willing to adopt new management concepts. From that time on, we were happy to learn a new term win-win. Of course, making concessions in order to attain good results is not a new idea to Hong Kong Chinese. It could at least reinforce our mind in this direction. In contemporary Hong Kong, we won’t emphasize win-win as we all understand it is an ideal approach that can help business or individuals to get what they wish. I insist that win-win is the most beneficial approach to all parties up to date, but I don’t dismiss the possibility that “some animals are more equal than others”.

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One Response

  1. Dear Peter,

    thank you for your time and insights.

    I am very happy to be able to learn about your perspective of mindfulness within mediation and specially of your conception of the three possible outcomes of a mediation, namely: lose-lose, lose-win, and win-win. As we mostly focus on results that we suspect to be positive for the participants, such as win-win, it is very seldom to properly witness someone talking about other results, such as lose-lose. It is fascinating to imagine that the parties in conflict might agree on a lose-lose outcome and still be following a beneficial motivation that actually makes them disagree on other possible solutions.

    If we accept the idea that people, even unconsciously, look always for the best and most beneficial solutions to their problems, we might be able to imagine that in the mindset of the participant is another hidden point of view or interest that ought to be protected. This is only a slight example of the complexity that a conflict might bear or be set up of. I believe that in such a case the mediator did not fail at all, but that it is the participant’s wish to finalize the mediation at this specific point and to protect some very personal interests that call for another path to take.

    As mediators, we should always accept the autarky of the parties.

    Best regards, Daniel Erdmann

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