An open clash between two opposing groups (or individuals). A state of opposition between persons, ideas or interests.
— WordWeb Dictionary
Conflict is more than a disagreement. It as a deep, foundational clash between two or more people that determines the attitude, behavior and speech between those people.
To get beyond the conflict, we must agree to sit down and openly discuss the core differences we have that is causing the conflict and when we do meet, we must listen … really listen to what the other party(ies) has to say. In the end, both parties must come to a compromised position that allows both parties to satisfactorily move forward.
The challenge is that this is a tough, tedious process. There are no shortcuts. It requires our commitment to work it out. Lets look at the process to accomplish this:
Determine the general scope of the conflict
Look for over-the-top responses. We need to find out if we are dealing with a disagreement or a conflict. If the other person we are talking with is exhibiting far more anger and stress than warranted for the situation, we need to find out, through what the other person is saying or through that person’s behavior, the reason for the anger and stress. When addressing the reason(s) for the other person’s anger and stress, we must be careful not to aggravate that anger and stress to the point that the situation becomes violent.
Outside of the current conflict, is there tension between us and the other person? If we have previously been in conflict with the other person, we will naturally hold bad feelings towards that person whether we are in a current conflict or not. As a result, we may need to address this underlying conflict before we proceed to working out the current conflict.
Let’s examine how others may have tainted our perception of the other person. We need to honestly examine if others have fed our bias toward the other person. If yes, must purge this influence from our minds if we have any hopes of resolving our conflict. We must approach the resolution process with an open mind and a cooperative attitude. Otherwise, we’re wasting our time and effort.
The process of resolving our conflict
Our #1 task is to remain calm. Tempers are barriers to resolving our conflict. Hopefully, our goal is to make peace with the other person … not giving payback. To that end, we must remain calm and respectful.
It is often helpful to ask the other person for their ideas on how to resolve the conflict. This sends a signal to the other person that we are truly interested in resolving the conflict that stands between us.
Make a list of our specific concerns. As much as possible, we need to leave personalities and personal history out of it because that just leaves each party in a position to defend themselves. Talk about a specific behavior(s) that feeds the conflict.
We need to allow the other person to express their response(s) and opinions. As we will often learn, we have behaviors, attitudes and speech that needs addressing as well. We need to accept this as constructive criticism.
We need to ask plenty of questions. The best way we can learn what and how the other person is thinking and feeling is to ask them non-combative, non-leading questions. If all we’re doing is making statements, we come off as be threatening and authoritative rather then being open-minded to a resolution that we both can live with satisfactorily.
Sometimes we need to think outside the box for an acceptable resolution. If the resolution is going to be successful, both parties must have had a part in its construction. From a list of possible resolutions, we need to work together to determine which one or two are agreeable to both parties.
We need to take a breather if either one of us becomes too emotional. As mentioned before, the resolution process is work … hard work. Taking a break allows us to calm down and possibly think of new ideas with a new outlook.
We need to talk positively. When negotiating the resolution(s), we need to talk about the “do behaviors” instead of the “don’t behaviors”. This keeps us focused on the resolution(s) and not revisiting the behavior(s) that caused the conflict in the first place.
We need to find common ground. Frequently, we will find things we agree on when looking for resolutions. We need to acknowledge and build upon this common ground. This allows the resolution process to transition from a “you and me” resolution to an “our” resolution. This difference is success or failure.
Finally, we need to commit to the resolution agreed upon and vow to each other to make the resolution work.