Sumaira Dada discusses negotiation and conflict management skills in the light of the Quran and Sunnah
Shipment deadlines are approaching, but the supply has been slack. It is likely that the consignment may be delayed and you’ll lose that foreign client you worked so hard to get. The supplier now calls requesting further delay. You’ve had it now, and refuse to take anymore, flaring up at the person on the other end of the line, (who’s been having a hard day too) you have the perfect ingredients for a boiling quarrel. What follows is an exchange of the choicest of words—but wait; did you wonder what’s that leading you to? Certainly not Allah’s (swt) pleasure!
An analysis of the above case would show that there are several reasons for the quarrel taking place: anger on both sides; increasing work pressure and other problems on both ends. So, is quarrelling the solution to the problem? Not at all, as we know from the following Ahadeeth:
The Prophet (sa) said: “The most hated person near Allah is the most quarrelsome” (Bukhari). And one of the characteristics of a hypocrite is that, “Whenever he quarrels he behaves in a very imprudent, evil and insulting manner.” (Bukhari)
The above are strong points for working towards resolving an argument.
Conflicts Can Be Costly
Negative responses to conflicts can result in quarrels, long winding disputes or even workplace violence. According to the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), Europe’s biggest alternative dispute resolution body, it is how you approach conflict that makes the difference. According to its calculations in the United Kingdom alone, conflict costs businesses ₤33 billion every year of which legal fees amount to ₤6 billion whilst the cost of the damages alone is ₤27 billion. If this sum were a country it would be the world’s fifty-seventh biggest economy! Moreover, disputes can go out of control resulting in workplace violence. Workplace Violence Research Institute reports that losses in 1995 from workplace violence in the United States alone amounted to approximately $35.4 billion. Therefore, it is important that conflicts be dealt with positively and prevented from flaring up into negative situations.
What types of quarrels exist in the workplace?
These can be broadly divided into two:
How do I Deal with Task-related quarrels?
Find the underlying reason for the quarrel
It’s easy to flare up at someone, and more difficult to find the underlying reason for the quarrel—but the more difficult approach is definitely more rewarding as it would help you to tackle the problem rather than flaring up at the symptoms. Underlying reasons could include system and environmental problems, or organizational problems.
Work towards a win-win solution
Instead of letting differences and difficulties build into heated arguments try negotiating a solution that eventually benefits both the parties.
A famous example from the Seerah is that of the placement of the sacred Black Stone during the rebuilding of Al-Kabah. The Prophet (sa) helped diffuse a tense moment and created a win-win solution by involving the different clans.
Another example is that of Allied Signal, a maker of auto parts and aerospace electronics. The company worked out win-win agreements with many of its suppliers. In 1993, it offered to double its orders from one of its suppliers, Mech-Tronics on the condition that the latter would cut its prices by 10%. This resulted in an initial elimination of Mech-Tronics’ profits, however with help from Allied Signal it improved its efficiency and the higher volume soon paid off.
Have someone arbitrate or make peace
Called a peacemaker or an arbitrator, such a person or an institution resolves disputes between two parties. However, it’s important that the arbitrator resort to the guidance of the Quran and Sunnah to solve the problem and be just so that both parties are willing to accept the proposed solution to the conflict.
The Prophet (sa) was the arbitrator in Medina. In fact, accepting solutions proposed by the Prophet (sa) was a sign of faith among the believers. Allah (swt) says, “But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith, until they make you ( Muhammad) judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission.” (Surah An-Nisa 4: 65)
How do I Deal with Personal Quarrels?
Find the underlying problem
Unlike a task-related quarrel, personal quarrels can be due to negative emotions, for instance, dissatisfaction, jealousy, a hot temper or simply personality differences. Controlling emotional reactions or the responses to these differences can stop the difference from escalating into a heated argument.
Understand the different personality types
Try understanding the different personality types and deal with them accordingly. Identify their comfort zones, and what ticks them off. You can do this through patient observation and listening. We have the Prophet (sa)’s example to emulate in this respect. His observation was so minute that he would speak to his guests using their own accents and dialects. He was quite eloquent at both Bedouin and town speech.
Allah (swt) praised the Prophet’s (sa) conduct in the Quran, “And verily, you (O Muhammad (sa) SAW) are on an exalted (standard of) character.” (Al Qalam 68: 4) and also said: “And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you” (Aal Imran 3: 159)
Politeness pays enormous dividends both in this world and the hereafter. The Prophet (sa) said: “Nothing will be placed in the balance heavier than good conduct, and a person with good conduct will attain the rank of one who fasts and prays.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Dua is a Must
No matter how hard we try to turn away from resorting to quarrelling as the sole solution, we can’t do much without Allah’s (swt) help. So let each one of us pray that, O Allah “guide me to the best character for no one can guide to the best (character) except you, and turn away bad conduct from me for no one can turn it away from me except you.” (Muslim) Ameen.