Emil Păun and Anca Nedelcu

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V.3. Conflict Management

Usually, conflict is associated with a misunderstanding or a disagreement between two or more individuals or groups with regard to certain ideas, opinions, beliefs, interests, values etc.

Over the years, every one of us has entered into conflict either with a member of our own family or with our schoolmates, colleagues, business partners, or even with an unknown person. This conflictual situation was overcome in the best way possible: either by ourselves or with the help of other individuals who mediated the situation.

This part of the document is going to focus on the conflicts that might appear at the institutional level where the adult education process is concerned. Prevalent in these cases are potential conflicts generated by the gaps that might appear between the program offer and the requirements of the beneficiaries whose interests are not always met up to the highest extent.

In order for this conflict not to turn real (so to prevent them) the adult education institutions manager can periodically perform a need analysis, can negotiate programs and support the program strategy. Negotiation, in the case of adult education program providers, is highly important. These negotiations involve an honest agreement beneficial for both parties involved.

Robert Madduse (1998, p. 33) considers that a negotiation supposes the following 6 steps:



I plan to meet my negotiation partner. My objective is to have the initial contact in a friendly, relaxed and professional atmosphere.


I share my objectives and goals with the other. At the same time I try to anticipate what is going to follow next, to understand the objectives and purposes of the other party. It is possible that, during this stage, an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual trust develops.


In order for the process to start, specific problems must be articulated. I study all negotiations issues before starting the discussion, in order to establish the most advantageous way to present them: together or separately. Once this has been achieved, issues can be approached gradually.


Once the problems have been defined, it is absolutely essential that fields that generate disagreements or conflicts be pointed out. Only after these conflicts could be solved in a manner acceptable for both parties.


The key to the success of any negotiation appears when both parties re-evaluate their positions and determine the extant to which compromise is acceptable. During this stage I shall recall the offer/receive principle.


The final step is taken when both parties acknowledge all agreements that have been reached. I make sure that no subsequent misunderstanding is going to appear by transposing all agreements into writing (whenever possible) and by discussing them with the other party. The mutual agreement is the final goal of each negotiation process.


By analyzing this algorithm we can easily notice that a good negotiator is one who has interpersonal communication skills and knowledge.

Certain conflictual circumstances and/or situations might appear during the development of the adult education activity. Due to the fact that various educational programs and activities are attended by various individuals (difference in age, culture, training, interests, skills) disagreements might appear with regard to the curricula, schedule, evaluation system etc.

Also, these misunderstandings or differences of opinions appear quite frequently between adult students and their instructors, because of the differences that exist between their system of values, between their teaching and learning styles and the way in which they perceive the educational messages. Because of these situations adult education providers must have knowledge and abilities pertaining to various fields of activity. They need to have specialty knowledge, psychological and pedagogical skills, sociological and managerial abilities, the emphasis being placed on the communication and team work ones.

But, since we are talking about conflictual situations, the prevalent position is given to the skills and abilities possessed by the adult education program providers in what the conflict management is concerned. In this sense, adult educators need to have not only abilities in preventing and mitigating these conflicts that might result in a vicious environment that leads to unsatisfactory results and conclusion of the educational activities, but also knowledge with regard to strategies that allow them to cope with conflicts that can not be solved or mitigated and need to be managed for the benefit of the entire group and for the respective educational program and activities.

Our present life takes place within structures (social, functional) situated on various coordinates (data, facts, actions). As members of a certain social group we act based on certain relationship models, driven by interests and values that belong to ourselves or to the social group we belong to.

In this case, certain elements might change, based on a mutual agreement, in order to avoid a conflict. Interests might change or might be rationally re-oriented through a better understanding of facts and structures. Some structures might change if mutual interests of the parties involved require this. Also, various issues might be negotiated in order to reach various goals. Nevertheless, values cannot be negotiated. Conflicts related to values and relationships are not negotiable. We must learn to deal with them (conflict management). Negotiable conflicts for which a solution can be found are located in the interests and, partially, structures and data zone. Of course, there are various strategies for approaching and solving conflicts. Some of them are referring to:

  • Domination that consists in solving conflicts for the benefit of one party. In this case, the other party is totally dissatisfied.
  • Compromise when both parties are partially satisfied but none is fully content.
  • Integration this consists in mutually adopting a new solution agreed by both parties.

In the first two cases, conflict is merely postponed and can reappear in even more violent forms. The third case, the integration, represents the ideal solution.


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© Universitatea din Bucureşti 2003. All rigths reserved. No part of the text may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the University of Bucharest, except for short quotations with the indication of the website adress and the web page. This book was first published by Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti ISBN: 973-575-815-6
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