Managing Conflict

Managing Conflict

Active listening involves feeding back what you hear to the speaker by way of re-stating or paraphrasing what they have said to confirm that you have understood what was said.

Case Study

Potential for conflict arises from the sensitive nature of topics to be discussed and different viewpoints that may be expressed. Families are often made up of a diverse range of individuals whose personal histories can present barriers to open discussion.

Using case conferences to manage conflict - Dr Elspeth Correy

Read transcript (172kb pdf)

Often, conflict develops when a person does not feel that they are being listened to or their perspective is understood. Being aware of body language and signs that tension is developing can allow the early identification of potential conflict and aid in its resolution. Allowing an individual the time to speak and using active listening skills can ensure an individual feels heard. Using the CALM approach (189kb pdf) can help to managing conflict.

In situations where conflict is likely to develop, it can help to set ground rules:
  • Using only respectful non-threatening communication 
  • Ensuring people do not interrupt 
  • Allowing input from all participants
Where conflict already exists setting up expectations about the purpose of the case conference and what can be achieved can help to ensure the conversation is related to the current situation. If conflict arises that is diverting attention away from the current situation, it may be necessary to redirect conversation back to the specified purpose of the case conference.

There are times where it will not be possible to reach a resolution during the case conference, and it may be more appropriate to continue the discussion at a later stage. Ensuring the follow-up conversation occurs in a timely manner is important.

Providing opportunities for family members who can’t physically attend to teleconference will give them the opportunity to be involved in the decision making and reduce the potential for conflict later on because they feel they have been ‘left out’ or don’t understand the reasoning behind the care plan. However, family members who do not visit regularly may be less aware of deterioration in their loved one’s health and may therefore find it more difficult than regular visitors to accept that end of life is approaching.

Dealing with reticence

While many families will welcome an opportunity to engage in discussion regarding the care of a family member, there may be times when family are reluctant to be involved. The reluctance may be related to a range of factors related to their family history, their individual personal situation or their cultural or religious beliefs. In some situations, families do not feel empowered to contribute to decisions about how care is provided or they may be reluctant to take on responsibility. If families show reluctance to be involved it is important to ask questions to understand the reason for this. This can help you to develop strategies to increase engagement or assist in identifying another family member who may be more appropriate to include in case conferencing. Strategies to encourage engagement include:
  • Provide information on what will be discussed and the benefits that can be achieved from a case conference 
  • Offer to include additional people to support the family member 
  • Offer alternative strategies for them to have input, either by phone, in writing or in an individual conversation prior to or after the case conference 
  • Be flexible in time and days to ensure involvement is not limited by work or family commitments

Last updated 08 December 2015