Suppression and Conflict Resolution
The issue of conflict resolution is a topic that is a predominant aspect of our contemporary world. Conflict has become endemic and there are numerous wars and other forms of conflict of varying degrees and intensities taking place throughout the world. The processes and techniques of conflict resolution are therefore becoming increasingly important in dealing with these conflicts.
Conflict resolution includes a wide range of techniques as well as theoretical and practical procedures. Suppression, recognized as one of these techniques, is sometimes applied in extreme forms of conflict. While some argue that suppression is a legitimate resolution technique, others point out that the very definition of suppression is counter and antithetical to the conflict and spirit of conflict resolution.
Suppression as a conflict resolution technique is not an adequate resolution procedure for the following reasons. Firstly, by definition, it suppresses or denies the causes of conflict and therefore allows the cause of the conflict to continue and possibly worsen. The common meaning of the term points to this implication. For example Merriam-Webster refers to suppression as 'the act of withholding or withdrawing' and 'the conscious intentional exclusion from consciousness of a thought or feeling'. (Merriam-Webster Online) It also refers to the use of force rather than discourse or negotiation, 'forceful prevention; putting down by power" (ibid)
Most importantly, suppression cannot be seen as a 'resolution' as it runs the risk of, in reality, perpetuating the conflict. This can in turn inflame the conflict by not addressing the root causes. This also relates to the fact that the resolution of conflict, through biased power-dominance and assertion cannot be seen as resolution but rather as an avoidance of the root cause of the conflict.
For some conflict suppression may be a sensible approach. If this, on the other hand, is used by a powerful agent as his or her strategy in a power struggle, this may be seen as advice that asks human beings to deny democratic evolution. (Leymann H.)
Suppression also denies the possibility of a more positive and collaborative approach to conflict resolution.
Another important aspect is that conflict resolution should not be confused with the desire to deny the reality of conflict as an important mechanism in society; which is another danger of the technique of suppression. From a sociological point-of-view, conflict is an inevitable and, according to many theorists, necessary part of social evolution and development. Conflict is...
Conflict in and of itself is neither positive or negative. Rather, it is the response to conflict that transforms it into either a competitive, destructive experience or a constructive challenge offering the opportunity for growth.
(Crawford D. And Bodine R.)
The central methods of conflict resolution include the idea of dialogue, discussion and debate. Conflict resolution in essence is a constructive process and has little relationship to the negative connotations of suppression.
Since conflict is an inevitable part of life, learning how to respond to it constructively is essential. Constructive conflict resolution begins with developing an understanding of conflict and the principles of conflict resolution. (ibid)
In the sense of the above quotation it becomes obvious that suppression is the opposite of constructive conflict resolution. This also implies that dominance and suppression tends to exacerbate the conflict rather than resolve it.
If this position results in the participants' unwillingness to attempt to understand one another's positions, conflict can hardly be solved other than through a (brutal) power struggle that will further diminish the losing participants' motivation for co-operation.
The idea of communication and dialogue forms a central part of most conflict resolution techniques "People can be trained to handle conflict in a constructive way. This is indeed the case. The assumption has overwhelming support in the literature." (ibid)
Suppression on the other hand means the denial and the prevention of dialogue. Suppression therefore does not implement the direct resolution of conflict.
A person using suppression plays down the differences and does not recognize the positive aspects of handling conflict openly. Again, the source of the conflict rarely goes away. Suppression may be used when it's more important to preserve a relationship that to deal with an insignificant issue through conflict.
(Methods of Conflict Resolution)
Common conflict resolution procedures include the use of power or dominance, which relates more to…
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