Resolute About Resolution
Conflict Resolution is a huge topic. Thousands of books, articles, classes and lectures are devoted to the subject, with about as many ideas and strategies to use. Consequently, one blog post cannot encompass all the material, and therefore, over the next year, I will visit different pieces of the conflict resolution puzzle that can be important to you in your high pressure jobs and relationships.
Let’s get started with a few basics. First we’ll generally define “conflict,” which I’m sure you all are familiar with, and then I will share a short guideline to help you manage during times of interpersonal and situational conflict.
What is Conflict?
Many people define conflict as a disagreement, but conflict moves beyond that definition. Conflict occurs in a situation where one or both parties disagree AND perceive a threat, real or not. Therefore, conflicts trigger strong emotions based on our perception of the situation, not based on the facts of the situation. And, our perceptions are built from past experiences, values, upbringing and core beliefs.
Part of the ability to manage conflict is based on your ability to manage your emotions, which in turn is based on how comfortable you are with your emotions. This is “emotional awareness,” a core pillar in the conflict resolution strategy (and one that deserves its own blog post later.) When you are aware of how you feel and can remain comfortable with your passing emotions you don’t simply react. You can attend to the situation in a constructive way (even during a real or perceived attack). Emotional awareness allows you to manage your own feelings appropriately, communicate clearly, stay focused on resolution, listen, and understand the other person’s views and perceptions.
Emotional awareness coupled with the following guideline can further your skills in conflict resolution. We’ve all heard this list at one time or another, but it is good to reaffirm each point.
- Make resolution the priority: Rather than having a “must-be the winner” attitude, make “must resolve the issue” your mantra. Being in a relationship or solving an issue is not just about being right or winning the argument. Maintaining and strengthening the relationship is the point. Be respectful of the other person’s viewpoint.
- Listen: Listen for what is said and listen to what is felt. Part of emotional awareness is knowing, understanding and honoring the emotions of the other person. When you are in control of your emotions, you free up space in your heart and mind to truly listen, so that you can be informed, understand and respond respectfully.
- Stick to the task at hand: solving the current conflict relies on your ability to focus on the here-and-now. Bringing up past conflicts or holding a grudge will cause your push toward current resolution to backslide.
- Pick your battles: Certainly this is pertinent to all types of relationships, even dealing with issues such as road rage or common discourtesies. Ask yourself if this issue is worthy of your time, emotion and energy.
- Give forgiveness: Better yet (and particularly important with your children and teens), forgive easily and forget readily. Central to conflict resolution is forgiveness. All resolution relies upon denying your urge to continually punish.
- Be okay with “agreeing to disagree”: Of course coming to an agreement is always optimal, but sometimes people just don’t see eye-to-eye. It’s not the disagreement that necessarily creates the conflict; it’s the sense of threat and emotion wrapped around the disagreement. If you can let go of the perception of attack, the disagreement may feel smaller. It may not be worth the energy to continue arguing if it’s going nowhere. You can disengage, agree to disagree and move on.
Stay safe. -jb