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Conflict Game

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The Conflict Game

In 1960, the Milton Bradley Company created the Game of Life. This board game sends players on an adventure through life. The player has options throughout the game and sometimes is sent down a risky road where fortunes are won or lost. During the course of the game, if a player lands on all spaces that give money and the player has the highest salary amount possible, they could earn a maximum of $3,115,000 and be deemed the “game master”. In efforts play this game the players have to determine if they are going to be “game players” or “game masters”. Players in the real game of life must also make similar decisions and face similar consequences for their actions. Also, just like the board game, players get their feathers ruffled and conflict is created when course of life takes a different route from the original plan. This can generate high emotions and increase the stakes of the game. In efforts to succeed in both the game and in daily life, the players have to recognize the game playing is an essential part of managing conflict. (Hasbro, 2013). Relationships can often be viewed as games because each relationship has a set of rules worked out between both parties. When the rules are followed, things go well. When the rules are stretched or disregarded, conflict arises. It is one thing to “play the game” but quite another to “master the game”. A game master knows how to play the game and why such game should be played. A game master is stable in good situations but also confident in unstable ones. These individuals create clarity and establish order because they understand the need for rules and invite others to participate in other forms of communication. Game masters are not afraid of ambiguity, and can live with uncertainty for extended periods of time. In order to become a game master in a world filled with conflict, it is critical to: (1) know the powers and limits of normal ways and responding to a difference, (2) understand when new patterns of communication are necessary, (3) respond to conflict in new ways and have the tools to do so, and (4) transcend patterns in which participants are entrenched old games that do not work in new situations. (Littlejohn, 2007). In efforts to develop a skillset equipped to handle power struggles and individual limitations, it is important to recognize the stereotype that demonizes conflict. In the workplace especially, a group of individuals working together is a breeding ground for conflict. This dysfunction can help effect radical change. The challenge in managing normal conflict is finding new ways to approach it. Many walk away with hurt feelings, anger, and resentment. In a workplace this leads to high turnover and reduced productivity. A game master recognizes the perceived threat of normal daily interactions and recognizes its perception. These masters gain momentum when they debunk ideas of skepticism and sabotage by building and empowering others to work in a cohesive and productive way that leads to personal and professional satisfaction. (Vokoun, 2008). This satisfaction helps guide individuals into new thought patterns and thus invites alternative communication styles into relationships. This is made possible because when conflict arises the individual has the opportunity to analyze its elements: problems, solutions, pros, cons, etc. Once these elements are examined possible themes are identified. These themes generally create repeating patterns and thus help in establishing a comfortable rhythm of life no matter how functional or dysfunctional. A game master is able to take their eyes off of the norm and step away to have the opportunity for new themes to be revealed. This deliberate process gives game masters access to new patterns and ideas that can easily be infused into any situation. (Bartlett, 2011). By evaluating old patterns, game masters create an internal conflict management tool kit to help them respond to conflict. The tool kit aims to manage conflict in ways that prevent eruption of destructive conflict, facilitate a move from violent to spoken conflict, and enables a transformation from conflict to addressing root causes and effects of conflict. While each scenario is different the game master is ready and capable of diffusing conflict by using several devices or strategies that often include: conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, peace building, and state building. Each approach allows the games master to analyze, understand, explain and predict conflict and the mechanisms that contribute to its solution. ("Conflict management tool," 2013).

To further understand and predict future conflict, the game master transcends patterns to halt participants from playing old games. This tough change can help create a more developed and positive culture in any relationship. However, it requires improved self-awareness and leadership. Also, if at work, an organization and personal commitment to transform the world created by players is from the inside out. While stepping out of a comfort zone may not be easy, the results are far greater than the chaos the game players have created. In order to transcend patterns, game masters must have a clear understanding of the behavior and consequences for change. A higher standard of development and training must take place to ensure game players are being encouraged to come over to the new positive platform of game playing. Additionally, an establishment of trust must be developed as the fragility of old ways can corrupt new intentions. Open communication about objectives and behavioral standards and safeguard against potential habit breakdowns and mutual respect will build a culture that is effective and transformed. (Mitchell, 2009). Effective communication is not easy while in the midst of conflict but it is possible. True change comes when individuals challenge the “I don’t play games” mantra and transform into the ultimate game master. Just like in the board game of Life, that is currently celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, time changes things. In real life, time and efforts changes circumstances too. When an individual is self-reflective and eager to achieve better outcomes in all of their relationships, transformation can occur. While this transformation will not eliminate future conflict all together, it allows the game master to be more stable and effective during conflict. A game master has the power to change the environment around him/her but also the reactions of the other game players. This is possible because many of the unstable emotions bred during conflict are a result of chaos. A game master challenges chaos and creates clarity. This clarity helps reveal game playing isn’t just for child hood, it is a continued part of everyday life.

References:

Bartlett, G. (2011). Pattern thinking. Retrieved from http://patternthinking.net/pattern-thinking.html

Conflict management tool kit. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.sais-jhu.edu/resources/middle-east-studies/conflict-management-toolkit

Hasbro. (2013). The game of life board game. Retrieved from http://www.hasbro.com/games/en_US/game-of-life/GOL_FunFacts.cfm

Littlejohn, S. & Domenici, K. (2007) Communication, Conflict, and the Management of Difference, Waveland Press, Long Grove, Illinois

Mitchell , P. (2009, May 25). The seven difficult challenges of modifying behavior. Retrieved from http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Seven-Difficult-Challenges-of-Modifying-a-Workplace-Safety-Culture&id=5171734

Vokoun, M. (2008). Conflict:beneficial or just risky business. Retrieved from http://www.managerwise.com/article.phtml?id=624

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