If you are involved in conflict you’ll know how draining it can be. Even being a witness to ongoing conflict can cause emotional and physical stress and affect your long term health and wellbeing. So if you are involved in conflict or trying to help resolve it – what are some things you can consider to support resolution?
Everyone projects their world view on a situation and to the people around them. So if you think it’s going to be a terrible day, or that someone is picking on you – then you are correct. Your own expectations start to drive the outcome, as you are constantly looking for actions to confirm your bias; and at the same time, you tend to disregard those actions that don’t support your viewpoint.
Our worldview is formed by our unique set of life experiences, our culture and our personal values. So how we each experience a situation can be vastly different – other influencers can include: mental or physical health; the weather (!); social or religious conventions; and the culture and values of the immediate environment (e.g. the workplace). So it’s not surprising that when relating an event we have all participated in, or witnessed; we each report different stories and we may not even agree on some details!
Consider the teenager; their parent may lament their bad behaviour, their tantrums and their defiance. Yet the child’s grandparents and family friends often talk about how well behaved and pleasant they are. So is the child a Jekyll and Hyde? It’s probably more that the parent and their child are each locked into patterns of behaviour and expectations both with and of each other; so it can be difficult to appreciate that there is more balance available – but only if they are prepared to shift their own thinking and change how they act. In the case of this example, it would need to be the parent who recognises the need to change their own behaviour and expectations first, if they want to change or improve the dynamics of the relationship.
First accept that what is happening now; that how you habitually react and behave is no longer working if you want to resolve the matter. Something has to change, and the only thing you really have control over is yourself. So change will need to happen with you first. This realisation is often the hardest to accept. Especially if you feel wronged, or want to seek revenge, or stamp your authority or blame on the situation – or the other person.
The second is to mentally step back from the situation to create some space. Become the neutral observer. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person and try to imagine what their issues might be – do you really know their private fears, concerns, personal circumstances etc.? Maybe you’ll never know the full range of the factors which influence their behaviour – but chances are it’s not all about you or their relationship with you alone!
Look at the situation from all angles, without emotion, and note the facts – avoid creating stories… Be the person to take that first step to try and resolve the matter. Swallow your pride and your ego; set aside the past as it can’t be changed anyway, and look for the solution that will work for both of you.
If you are facilitating such a process, look for common ground; build upon small shifts in both attitude and behaviour and encourage the parties to see the bigger picture – especially each other's perspectives. Encourage them to keep their eye on their long term goal – for harmony or at the very least, mutual respect and tolerance. Keep to the facts of the matter at all times, blame is unproductive energy and does not get anyone closer to the goal of resolution. Know that emotion is a projection of our own internal fears or desires; so encourage a balanced discussion, keeping the mood as neutral as possible. Especially note the type of language and tone used. Politeness and respect are the cornerstones of all civil interactions. Righteous indignation or anger does not progress anything and often drives a bigger wedge so making the matter more difficult to resolve.
Ask those concerned - do you want resolution or do you want to be right? Point out that they can’t have both… Note that their ‘right’ is purely subjective anyway. My right is not your right, just as my truth is not your truth. The truth and the facts of the matter are not the same thing. The truth will be different for each person involved…
Another useful strategy to achieve harmonious relationships, is to act as if you already have them! Be that person who is friendly, helpful and courteous – drop all the other stuff, they are only distractions - leave any grievances in the past and move on. By all means respond appropriately when boundaries are being broken; say your piece respectfully and calmly; however know that you have no control over their response – if you have done all you can there is nothing left to do but to move on. Be aware of getting stuck in a passive aggressive (or even overtly aggressive…) loop of behaviour; this rarely results in resolution and almost always means one, some or all get hurt in the process.
Remember that often the biggest hurdle you need to face if you really want to resolve conflict in your life, is your own ego!
If you want some help with conflict resolution, then give me a call!