WHAT IS A CONFLICT?
“To live is to war with trolls.”
― Henrik Ibsen
Every moment we live, we experience conflicts. For a young person who aspires to clear SSB and join Indian Armed Forces, there can be various moments when your mind wants you to behave in a particular manner while your heart advocates a completely different action. Any situation where your interests clash with others’ interests can be termed as a conflicting situation. For instance, you want to join the Indian Armed Forces while your parents want you to run the family business of catering. On a smaller scale, your mother would want you to wear a particular set of clothes while you want to wear your rugged Jeans every moment of your life. Sometimes, conflicts can be rewarding if others listen and agree to do as you wish. At other times, they can be challenging if you find yourself in a situation where your values, opinions or performance is questioned.
Conflict is constructive when it:
•results in clarification of important problems and issues
•results in solutions to problems
•involves people in resolving issues important to them
•causes authentic communication
•helps release anxiety, emotion and stress
•builds cooperation among people through learning more about each other
•helps individuals develop understanding the skills
If effectively managed, conflict promotes creative problem solving, growth and innovation, clarifies individual decisions and perceptions, motivates individual, identifies new directions and new ways of thinking
Life of an Armed Forces personnel can be full of conflicts. Moving from one place to another on different assignments can lead to experiencing a lot of conflicting situations. Conflicts could be related to working culture, office environment, lifestyle habits and so on. How an individual reacts to these conflicting situations can decide the fate of innumerable people working with or under an officer. Wars can be started and later on decided based on how a leader reacts to a specific conflict in the region. That is why checking responses to conflicting situations in the form of a psychological test called Situation Reaction Test (SRT) is included in the Services Selection Board process.
Conflicts are not always of the same degree of intensity and difficulty. For instance, situations demanding reactions to questions like what to wear for a friend’s Birthday Party and what kind of job you need to do after completing graduation can not be assessed in the same category of difficulty. While the choice of a dress might be easy to decide on your own, the job needed after graduation might require a lot of discussion and deliberations from you and your family. So, generally speaking, conflicts can be termed as those with low, medium and very high level of difficulty.
WHAT CAN BE THE VARIOUS WAYS OF RESOLVING A CONFLICT?
“All conflict can be traced back to someone’s feelings getting hurt, don’t you think?”
― Liane Moriarty
No two human beings respond to a conflict in the same situation. For instance, if one is given a situation where one has got the call for two different types of job interviews, namely for a MNC with a plush pay package but highly competitive working environment and for the Indian Armed Forces with a decent pay package but comparatively an adventurous work profile; it is highly improbable that all the candidates will choose the same job option. And, if at all they do so, the reasons for their choice will not be the same. Every one will add a unique perspective to such a conflicting situation. As an assessor what matters most is how consistent and consonant an individual’s response is in relation with his/her upbringing and surroundings.
The various ways of resolving a conflict based on one’s upbringing and surroundings can be broadly termed under five heads:
1. Confrontation: This can be in the form of Attack or Struggle. In this kind of response the candidate faces the situation and responds to it, if he reaches the goal it shows high level of dynamism; and if he does not reach the goal it shows low level of dynamism. For example: Imagine s/he is taking bath and suddenly notices a black cobra hiding under the exhaust fan in the bathroom. For such a situation, if s/he responds by saying that s/he will immediately kill the cobra with the help of a broom/stick; it shows the readiness to attack the opponent in a conflicting situation. Another example of such a direct confrontation will be if for a situation where on entering one’s house from work, one finds the smell of LPG strongly circulating in the house; s/he immediately takes out the LPG cylinder, switches off the Main electrical switch and asks all family members to open all doors and windows to let the smell get out of the house. One of the best strategies envisaged to become a good leader is such high level of dynamism.
2.Cooperation: This can be in the form of a Compromise. In this kind of response the candidate reaches a substitute goal, shows fixed level of persistence. For instance, there is a situation where the college football team decides to change her/him from the post of captain and threatens to not perform if s/he disagrees in an important tournament for which preparations were in progress for past one month. In such a situation if someone responds by accepting to stepdown from the post of captain and agrees to play as a team player; it shows a high degree of persistence achieved through a compromise.
3.Withdrawal: In case the response indicates that candidate is showing as if he has stood still, it indicates his rigid attitude. Complete withdrawal indicates lack of persistence. For instance, in a situation where the whole college has called for a Mass Bunk citing some disputes with the college management and s/he has been stopped from entering the college campus by Student Union representatives; s/he responds by saying that s/he will attend the class; it indicates his/her rigid attitude. If s/he responds by saying that s/he will accept the situation and go back home it will show complete lack of persistence.
4.Avoidance: In this case of response fantasy is elicited as a reaction to failure. It shows lack of dynamism. For instance, in a situation where one’s younger sister threatens to run away with her boyfriend if s/he does not reveal her secret to the family; one responds by saying one will let the sister run away, it would definitely indicate one’s avoidance of sense of responsibility towards the family.
5.Denial: In such cases, the candidate totally fails to comprehend the situation or even if s/he does comprehend the situation, s/he shows total incompetence to overcome the situation. This indicates a total absence of behavioural factors such as Effective Intelligence, Dynamism and Social Adaptability. For instance, in a situation wherein on reaching one’s hometown one is told about the newly imposed curfew due to Covid pandemic and one still writes a response saying s/he will go home, without any reference to city authorities; one definitely has failed to comprehend the gravity of the situation.
WHAT IS THE RELEVANCE OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION STRATEGIES IN SSB?
“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict — alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.”
― Dorothy Thompson
Based on the responses a candidate gives to various Situations, the Conflict Resolution Strategies chosen b the candidates, the Psychologist deciphers and broadly defines the Leadership pattern of candidates. As discussed earlier various behaviours for dealing with conflict, broadly termed under the titles of •Avoidance •Accommodation •Compromise •Competing •Collaborating can define whether the candidate’s decision making is based on Assertion and Positive thinking or is just another form of hiding one’s aggression and under confidence.
HOW IS SITUATION REACTION TEST CONDUCTED?
Situation Reaction Test (SRT) is conducted as part of the psychological tests which are conducted on Day II as part of the Screening on Level II. It will be conducted after completion of Word Association Test. The answer sheet used for all the psychological test will be he same. In this test a total number of 60 situations are presented to the candidates. The psychologist would like to know how candidates would feel, think, and act in these situations. Candidates are to write their answers in their own handwriting in the answer sheet provided. In Situation Reaction Test the individual is given situations in form of short phrases and he is required to complete the same by indicating his reaction to it. Since SRT is a semi structured projective technique it provides a means for projection of significant themes.
This means unlike the Word Association Test and the Thematic Apperception Test, the situations will be printed in the booklet given to them and reactions in the form of short sentences are to be written beneath each situation. Candidates are requested to not write anything on test booklet. They will be given 30 minutes to complete the test . To make the candidates aware of time; half time, last 5 minutes, and last minute will be announced. After completion of 30 minutes, they would be told to stop writing and turn the page to move to the next psychological test, namely Thematic Apperception Test.
HOW DOES ONE APPROACH A SITUATION REACTION TEST?
“In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.”
― Lao Tzu
In the evaluation of cognitive, behavioural and affective aspects of personality Situation Reaction Test (SRT) has considerable sensitivity and utility. A Psychologist assesses the Situation Reaction Test (SRT) responses in conjunction with the findings of Thematic Apperception Test and Word Association Test for their Reliability, Validity and Utility. The content of situations are specially designed to assess intellectual level, social adjustment, social effectiveness & dynamism, of candidates. A successful candidate is one who manages moderate levels of conflict to achieve his/her goals. The consistency in strategies utilised to manage these conflicts would reflect a consistent personality who knows how to deal with a conflicting situation in an assertive, cooperative and positive way.
While trying to solve Situation Reaction Test (SRT), it is advisable to practice on a daily basis at least for a month prior to finally attending SSB. Daily practice of 08-12 situations would lead to improvement in comprehending the situation and writing down the responses. The candidate should be able to prioritise his/her needs in the situation and accordingly pen it down using appropriate adverbs/clauses/phrases, such as Firstly/to begin with/in the beginning, s/he will……., then/ after that/secondly s/he will……. and finally/in the end/if time permits/ if required s/he will…
One needs to remember that the same part sentences will evolve different responses of varying lengths from different individuals. The responses give information on individual’s satisfaction and any one (both general and specific): fear, aversion, likes, interest, feelings, urges, beliefs, attitudes and desires. Although the some candidates can censor their response to a considerable degree, but it is immaterial whether the candidate is telling the truth or not, s/he reveals him/her self in either event.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE REMEMBERED WHILE SOLVING SITUATION REACTION TEST?
“Every period of human development has had its own particular type of human conflict—its own variety of problem that, apparently, could be settled only by force. And each time, frustratingly enough, force never really settled the problem. Instead, it persisted through a series of conflicts, then vanished of itself—what’s the expression—ah, yes, ‘not with a bang, but a whimper,’ as the economic and social environment changed. And then, new problems, and a new series of wars.”
― Isaac Asimov
Today along with other Psychological Tests such as Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and Word Association Test (WAT), Situation Reaction Test (SRT) is being used as a project technique for assessing leadership qualities of candidates appearing for Service Selection Board. The Situation Reaction Test (SRT) consists of situations which anyone may undergo in their lives. These situations are presented as open end situations making the individuals to perceive, interpret and respond to the situations in their unique ways. The situations provide broader picture of a candidate’s personality with specific relevance to four broad heads of desirable behavioural factors namely Planning and Organizing, Social Adjustment, Social Effectiveness and Dynamism.
There are no right or wrong answers in respect of these situations. Every one is likely to read these situations in his/her own way. Do not spend too much time in thinking out the answer to the situation. Write quickly the answer that comes to your mind first. Each Situation is designed in such a manner that it justifies the presence of desirable behavioural traits and rules out the presence of unwanted traits. Also 60 situations can be broken down into sub-set of 15 each situations belonging to four specific sub-heads which aim at testing the presence of a specific trait out of the four broad behavioural factors namely effective intelligence, social adjustment, social effectiveness & dynamism, of candidates. For instance, let us look at the following situations,
S/He notices a car moving with high speed running over a child on the road. S/He will…….
(This situation tests the candidate’s knowledge about saving lives, following rules, helping the law to catch the offenders.)
S/He was going to Delhi for an interview but realised after one hour that s/he has boarded a wrong train. He will…….
(This situation tests one’s social adjustment )
His/her friends came to borrow the book from which s/he was preparing for next morning paper. S/He will…….
(This situation tests one’s social effectiveness, the ability to cooperate, influence and work within a group)
S/He hears his/her neighbour screaming ‘thief – thief’ at mid night. S/He will…..
(This situation tests the level of dynamism: moral as well as physical courage of a candidate)
The type of response that a candidate writes for a particular situation explicitly talks about the degree of intensity with which a specific behavioural trait is present or absent in the candidate. If a candidate adopts the strategy of Attack or Struggle through his motor responses consistently, it may depict a highly action-oriented personality, which might suit certain arms of Indian armed forces. By reacting mechanically to a situation based on somebody else’s reactions would lead to inconsistency in responses and will not lead to scoring high in merit.
Finally, there is only one thing which needs to be remembered while responding to the Situation Reaction Test is that it tests each candidate’s personality as an interrelated whole, rather than as a random mixture of isolated traits. It permits every person to have a different final analysis, corresponding to one’s knowledge that each person is unique. It helps in tapping the forces which underlie overt behaviours and are other-wise not observable, and tendencies which will break forth under future stress though they are not yet apparent.
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