Most of us encounter some form of conflict at some point in each day. It is impossible for even the most even-keeled, agreeable person to completely avoid conflict. Conflict is an ever-present part of life.
Because of what conflict is, a difference in views, ideas, competing interests or belief systems is it not possible for every conflict to have a resolution. Due to the variances in each person’s aspirations, experiences, assumptions, morals, and positions, we will encounter conflict and sometimes there is no resolution and this is in our best interest.
Just because something does not have a resolution does not mean that the level at which conflict is experienced needs to remain the same. Some things can be done to mitigate the effects of the conflict and lessen the severity of which it occurs.
Gain an Understanding
By sitting down and define your views on conflict, a more broad understanding can be reached. What is your experience of conflict? Where has it down up throughout your life? What immediate responses do you have when a situation occurs?
Some people love conflict and thrive on it, others do everything in their power to avoid it. Why do you think this is? By exploring these questions you can gain a more well-rounded idea of what conflict is to you. Once we understand how our views are shaped we can challenge these preconceived notions and redefine how we choose to move forward.
Resolving vs Managing Conflict
The ability to resolve a conflict required both people to agree to the way things will be moving forward. This works best when the opposing parties have a relationship that they want or need to maintain. Both must be willing to take the time to listen to the other person and be open to sharing their perspectives to gain a deeper understanding of one another.
When bridging understanding, neither party needs to agree with the other, they simply need to be able to gain insight into the perspective of the other individual. They do not need to take on this new view, condone it or even like it, they do learn to understand how and why this view came to be and why it is important to the other individual.
By building upon a common set of interests and values, moving away from individual positions, the individuals will be able to work towards finding common ground to make choices that will work for both of them.
Sometimes finding common ground is extremely difficult or the parties are unwilling to participate in a discussion with one another. When this occurs the primary goal becomes managing the conflict. This can be done using a variety of methods often involving a third party who will make decisions for those involved.
When a conflict needs to be managed it becomes a matter of how to manage the people and how to manage the problem. By separating these two pieces the third party will have greater success. At this point, there is minimal to no emphasis placed on the relationship between the two parties. Though this may be a goal for the future, such as during a divorce when children are involved, the third party’s priority is to deal with the most immediate, time-sensitive decisions.
Managing the people involves looking at what role each person played within the conflict and what their needs are to ensure their success moving forward.
Was there miscommunication, a gap in understanding or knowledge, a fundamental difference in motivations? Is there something that needs to be changed, taught or altered to have better results going forward? Did the parties involved have the skills to come to a resolution? If future conflicts are going to be minimized or resolved these issues must be addressed.
Managing the problem is a matter of seeing where something went sideways and what needs to be resolved. It is important to determine if the problem is worth the time, energy and resources necessary to fix it. If it is not, it becomes a matter of containing it, minimizing the effect and learning to be at peace with it.
Be at Peace with Conflict
This first step at being at peace with conflict is by acknowledging that conflict happens to everyone.
“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.”
You can take power back within a conflict by choosing your reaction. Changing your reaction is a skill, it must be learned and it must be practiced. For most, it is not something that is automatically known. This means allowing yourself to be in conflict situations to practice your skills.
Post-Conflict Self Check-in
Gaining insight into our triggers and boundaries is the most helpful when we can take a step back once the emotion has lessened and we are thinking more clearly. By taking the time to evaluate how a specific conflict came to be, we can determine if this was us acting at our best or if other skills could have been used.
Take the time to critically evaluate if there was something within your power that could have created a more positive outcome. Determine if you are okay with the result? If not, is it worth re-grouping and having a new conversation based on gained personal insight? Is there something you wish you had asked or told the person? Is the purpose to move towards understanding or to place blame or cause pain? How would this move us towards or away from the goal of resolution?
Ultimately, you need to find peace within the result or a way to re-engage to create something better for both parties.
Road-map to Successfully Resolving Conflict
The first step of being successful is taking the time to set ourselves up for success. Essentially this is the mes en place of a conversation; get everything ready to be successful.
- Evaluate what your best and worst-case scenarios are for moving forward with a conversation or not having a conversation
- If you will not move forward, map out what that looks like
- Determine if this is a conversation you require an impartial third party for
- If so hire a third party that is experienced in your area of conflict
- Work with the other person to determine the best time and location to meet as well as how long you each will have to speak
- Meet at a time and place that is convenient to both of you
- Try to keep the location somewhere private and free from distraction where you can speak openly
- Take the time to write down your position/point of view and what about it can be resolved
- Determine if you are you looking to solve an issue or have the other person gain an understanding of your perspective
- What about it is important to you and why?
- Are there concerns, values, expectation, beliefs, assumptions, fears or needs that have led to this position
- Repeat step 4 from the other person’s perspective
- Write down any questions that may help you gain an understanding of their perspective
- Bring the worksheets to the meeting – If you have hired a third party, they will assist with the following steps
- Thank the individual for coming and state that you are looking forward to resolving the situation with them
- Start the meeting by having a positive tone and optimistic view of how the conversation will go
- Reconfirm the amount of time that has been allocated to speak
- Together, establish a set of ground rules that will help you to each have the optimal conversation
- These need to be agreed upon by both parties and can be pulled back to if written down
- Ask for clarification and clarify if unclear ie. no cell phones could mean away, silenced or on the table face down
- Ask the other person what they are here to resolve
- This is when you start using your notes, asking questions and listening
- Remember that most people need to be heard before they can listen
- Tell the person what you heard them say so they know you are listening
- Write down if there is a topic you both agree needs to be resolved, this should be short and agreed upon by both parties
- If you stall out or things get heated and calling a time out is not working, be willing to call in a skilled, impartial third party
- Once both you and the other person feel you are heard and understood by the other person, start brainstorming ideas for solutions
- Remember no idea is bad, you will evaluate the ideas later
- If either party keeps restating their position go back to step 10
- Determine together what the best solution is
- Thank the other person for their time and make plans more move forward with the solution you have both agreed upon
Whatever comes out of your conflict, know that each situation is a learning opportunity. Leverage each experience, no matter the results, to grow in your confidence with conflict and become comfortable when resolution can not be found.