Conflict Management: The Jungle Book way
Updated: May 11, 2021
Raised by a family of wolves since birth, Mowgli must leave the only home he's ever known when the fearsome tiger (Shere Khan) unleashes his mighty roar. Guided by a no-nonsense panther (Bagheera) and a free-spirited bear (Baloo), the young boy meets an array of jungle animals, including a slithery python (Kaa) and a smooth-talking ape. Along the way, Mowgli learns valuable life lessons as his epic journey of self-discovery leads to fun and adventure.
- That is Google’s synopsis of The Jungle Book
There are several conflicts Mowgli faces through his journey in The Jungle Book. That will help us understand today’s topic - conflict management.
Conflict Management is an art of empathetically observing the conflicts and appreciating the positivity while limiting the negativity. Implemented properly, this art enhances the interpersonal relationships within a working group or individuals and attains favorable results. The most severe expression of conflict is war.
Conflict isn't about what the other person is doing wrong; it's about what you believe you're doing right. As you can see in the above picture, Mowgli and Sher Khan both feel that they are right about their intentions and by the law of nature.
Why Manage Conflicts?
While conflicts play a great role in every individuals’ life, interpersonal relations, team building, and defining cultures at groups, workplaces, communities, religions, and even countries, managing them effectively may greatly help a positive growth of involved parties.
For example, at workplaces, effective conflict management may lead to:
Increased performance, productivity, and motivation.
Reduced stress, absenteeism, presenteeism.
Enhanced workplace communication, team functioning, and effectiveness.
Development of conflict resolution skills.
In a person’s life, effective conflict management may add positivity that
Opens eyes to new ideas.
Provides an opportunity to verbalize needs.
Leads to solutions.
While the “management” or resolution of conflict depends on the situation, there are several common practices or styles popular. We will slowly get there. Firstly, let’s learn types of conflict with Mowgli.
Conflicts generally come in four basic types: Conflict with the self, Conflict with others, Conflict with the environment, and Conflict with the supernatural. Let's take a closer look in the following section.
Types of conflicts
Conflict with the self (a.k.a. Inner Conflict):
In The Jungle Book, Mowgli has a 'Conflict-with-the-self' (inner conflict) who/what he is.
“To be or not to be”, ’s a usual question faced by every individual. Inner conflict is when you are struggling with being yourself vs doing things that you ought to do. The struggle is internal.
Here are a few examples:
It's lunchtime and there is an important meeting to attend.
Planning for happy hour with office colleagues but your kid wants to spend the same evening with you.
A sweet lover tested positive for diabetes.
The best way to handle inner struggle is by being true to yourself. Note that no one can bring you peace but yourself. Every conflict has its own pros and cons, thinking of long term outcome, and being honest is the way forward.
Conflict with others:
At a point in The Jungle Book, Mowgli has a 'Conflict-with-others' with his wolf pack. For Mowgli’s good, the pack wants him to go back to human society, whereas, with all the love, affection and routine Mowgli doesn’t want to leave the jungle and the wolf pack.
Each one of us is different and unique in ourselves. Conflicts in parties often occur because of differences in characteristics, values, ethics, inspirations, motives, objectives, desires, goals, and more. Most conflicts are unavoidable.
Conflict can occur when there is discomfort from fear of the unknown or lack of fulfillment. Common factors causing the conflicting situation are:
Lack of interpersonal relations.
Unaligned understandings or knowledge gaps.
Few examples of conflict with others are:
Workstyle or leadership conflicts.
Socio-economic and political view conflicts.
Ideation and innovation conflicts
What matters most is getting along with others.
They say it takes two or more to talk. Such conflicts can be easily resolved with talks.
With an open mind, with an assertive attitude, accepting the fact there is conflict, listening, and respecting each other's opinions is the way forward.
Conflict with the environment:
In The Jungle Book, Mowgli has a 'Conflict-with-the-Environment' as he is not suitable for jungle life.
Organizational behavior, environmental change, culture, human relations, personality traits, and local laws are a few of the sources of this conflict. These factors may make work tough and also rough. It impacts project objectives, company goals, personal aspirations, and mainly disrupts the harmony in any system.
As we know change is the only constant thing in this world, what matters is understanding these factors and with that understanding try to work with the situation. Either one should make an effort to go with the flow/change or should face the challenge with preparation and aftermath in mind. An appropriate choice of conflict management style can certainly help handle the situation better.
The right handling of conflict-with-environment has given the best leaders to the history of human society.
Conflict with the supernatural:
In The Jungle Book, Mowgli has a 'Conflict-with-the-supernatural' since he was in the jungle situation due to an unavoidable out of his control situation, a.k.a. Fate.
Supernatural conflict occurs when a character faces resistance from a supernatural force, such as fate, magical forces, otherworldly beings, religion, or deities. Supernatural conflicts occur or are responsible to occur the reciprocating conflicts in one’s life, and still, we mostly tend to ignore or not weigh them explicitly as conflicts. ‘Coincidences’ and ‘fate’ keep playing the silent role for and around everything. Magic, religion, and deities are topics of endless debate, and we are avoiding the conflict here [Avoidance is a way of conflict management, that we will learn in the following section :-) ]
In The Jungle Book, there is no better explanation than fate playing the role in Mowgli getting into an extremely uncommon situation, i.e. man-cub living wildlife. It is only a coincidence that brings him to a loving and kind-hearted family of wolves. And this series of supernatural events - bringing conflicts to Mowgli’s life - are the forces behind building this fantastic story close to everyone’s heart.
Styles for conflict management
Dr. Kenneth W. Thomas and Dr. Ralph H. Kilmann introduced the Thomas–Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI). The TKI assessment provides insight into an individual’s typical response to conflict situations using one or more of five conflict-handling modes, or styles: competing, accommodating, avoiding, collaborating, and compromising. These modes reflect varying levels of assertiveness and cooperation. With the help of TKI, today, we will learn the styles of conflict management. We would certainly use examples from the life of our beloved Mowgli.
The TKI model is based on the degree of cooperativeness and assertiveness used in conflict management and has bucketed in the five headers.
Cooperativeness: Assertiveness is Low: Low
Sidestepping an issue or moving away from a situation in an uncooperative and unassertive way is avoiding style. Mainly not satisfying self or other person concern brings avoiding style.
Talking about The Jungle Book, Mowgli has a 'Conflict-with-others' with Shere Khan. Knowing his weakness as a man-cub, a face-off with Shere Khan could have been an act of madness for Mowgli. Since they both have a huge conflict, Mowgli’s good policy was to use an ‘avoiding’ style of conflict management. He managed it well for a good span of the story.
Cooperativeness: Assertiveness is Low:High
Without thinking of others point of view and stressing your position with 100% assertiveness and less cooperation is a competing style. This style is used when a person has to take instant action, and make not so favorable decisions. The example scenarios could be in emergencies or when safety is a concern.
In The Jungle Book, having learned that Shere Khan has returned to the pack's part of the jungle, the pack leader Akela decides that Mowgli must leave the jungle for his own safety. Bagheera volunteers to escort him to a "Man-Village." This act by Akela or Bagheera can be classified as a ‘Competing’ style of conflict management.
Cooperativeness: Assertiveness is High:Low
The accommodating style is when you focus and satisfy other concerns and do not give much importance to self-concern. Building relationships with cooperativeness with the ability to be selfless or sacrifice brings an accommodating style.
In our Mowgli's story, after the encounter with King Louie (the orangutan), Bagheera explains to Baloo why Mowgli must leave the jungle. Baloo unwillingly agrees to take Mowgli to man-village. I see Baloo's action as 'Accommodating' conflict management.
Cooperativeness: Assertiveness is Moderate: Moderate
Finding a middle ground with committing to some of the others' concerns or forgoing some of your concerns is a compromising style. Here both assertiveness and cooperativeness are at a moderate level.
At the start of The Jungle Book story, Akela accepts Mowgli in the wolf-pack, accepting the risk he may bring to the pack in the future. Towards best handling the situation, and the care for the estranged man-cub Akela ‘Compromises’ with future safety. He shows situational leadership by using this style of conflict management.
Cooperativeness: Assertiveness is High: High
One of the best styles to resolve conflict is collaborating where the concerns are satisfied on both sides. This style provides the maximum degree of assertiveness and cooperativeness, which leads to mutual progress and builds trust.
For the drought situation, in The Jungle Book story, there is the set jungle rule of collaborating, that is observing the truce at the peace stone. Once the peace stone is visible, no one will harm anyone who is coming there for water.
Though it is a set rule, it is wholeheartedly accepted by everyone, forgetting the mutual differences, the food chain, and the conflicts to keep the jungle life running. In the past, someone (who made the truce) must have collaborated with their natural enemies, and it is far progressing, very assertive, and so much cooperative. That is a real win-win situation.
Conflict management needs more competence than just knowing the types and styles of handling it. The first step towards dealing with a conflict is accepting that there is one. It also needs an open mind to assess all the factors involved and the potential positivity associated with the conflict.
Read our “Conflict Management: Do it the right way!” blog post, focused on the skills needed and steps involved in conflict management.