Updated: Sep 30
Do you have anyone in your life who drives you nuts? Maybe it is a child, a spouse, a friend a co worker or a parent. Well, if you are like most people you do have one or more people like that in your life!
Picture that person’s face in your mind as we begin this series because I want you to think about how you apply principles of conflict resolution to your relationship. The principles we will look at have worked in dozens of countries around the world. So think about how you can put them to work and see broken relationships become whole.
This article will explore 12 steps to resolving conflict: .
1. Learn to embrace and resolve conflict.
How was conflict handled in your life growing up? Did your family deal with it in a healthy way or didn’t they?
It’s important to think about this because most of us tend to respond to conflict the way our families did, or we overreact and go to the other extreme.
The tendency is for us to react by “Fight or Flight”. We can get abusive on the one hand or run away, deny and hide on the other. Both of these processes are unhealthy and never resolve conflict.
Remember the goal is to embrace conflict and resolve it.
So what do you do? You commit to resolve conflict routinely. You embrace it in the way one fighter embraces another. You try to get your arms around the conflict, evaluate it, and not wasting emotional energy but letting your energy be used for positive problem solving.
The next 11 principles which we will cover in future editions of Resolve News will help you in this process.
This is step 2 in our continuing series on 12 steps to resolving conflict.
Learn how to handle anger. First realize that anger is not bad. It isn’t!
In fact anger is an emotion built within you in order to help you deal with impending danger the right way. Let me illustrate. You are driving on the freeway and a car pulls right in front of you. What do you do? Well you may be tempted to do all sorts of juvenile things. But hopefully you let the anger you’re feeling lead you to step on the brakes, swerve and avert a fatal accident.
You see anger is a tool to help you. So anger isn’t bad in itself.
Your response of flight or fight however is NOT how to respond to anger. Instead, admit your anger and ask yourself what is causing it. Don’t waste your emotions by moping or screaming or being resentful. Instead let all the emotional energy go toward completing the next 10 steps which we will explore over coming editions of Resolve News.
This is step 3 in our continuing series on 12 steps to resolving conflict.
The first step in seeking understanding and not just victory is learning to listen. That’s a killer for most of us. But you’ll never be a pro at resolving conflict unless you let go of trying to always win every point in a conflict and focus on truly understanding.
Many conflicts arise from mis-communication or mis-interpretation of events or supposed intent.
So keep your mouth shut and ask questions. If you are feeling hurt by someone due to what they may have said or done, don’t attack the person but ask questions to determine what was said and why it was said. Again don’t get in an attack mode. Instead try to understand the other person’s perspective and from that you may just find out that there is no real reason for conflict…or perhaps even that you were wrong!!
This is step 4 in our continuing series on 12 steps to resolving conflict—Assume the best.
Don’t jump to wrong conclusions. Instead give people the benefit of the doubt.
How many times have you heard someone say something or look at you a certain way in a meeting and you thought, “She doesn’t like me.” What’s that all about? We so often squelch good relationships at home and at work by assuming the worst. This especially happens when we hear that someone has said something negative about us. Don’t overreact. Remember we all get and give filtered information.
So if you get disparaging reports about you from others, check it out. And assume the best. You might want to say, “The other day a mutual friend said he heard you say, or someone else say, some unflattering things about me. I know how messages get confused when they pass through people, so I wanted to check directly with you to see if you do have any concerns and/or see any areas in my life I can work on.”
I know that you may just want to deck the person. But why? First, you may have inaccurate data. Second, if you received accurate data you may need to do some changing. Third, at the least the person knows that there is accountability for saying those things and most likely will be more thoughtful the next time.
This is step 5 in our continuing series on 12 steps to resolving conflict.
Learn to Share your feelings appropriately
Feelings are often confusing. Frankly most men seldom know how they feel. For instance my wife can say something to me that hurts my feelings and I express anger instead of hurt. Many men react to hurt with anger. It’s easier because anger seems to us to be about you – and hurt is about us. It is often a little too vulnerable for most of us guys to admit that what you said hurt us. But that is the fact. We are feeling unappreciated, disrespected and unloved. And this is a two edged sword. Women feel the same way. They feel unloved, unappreciated, undervalued. In fact I believe that the major problems in marriages are the inappropriate management of anger, especially in the area of sharing our feelings. It is really not about the finances, the business, the kids, the in-laws, sex or other side issues. It is about how we feel unloved, unappreciated etc. Here’s what we need to do. The next time you feel angry you need to do the following:
a) Admit that you are angry. Its OK, anger is just a warning sign.
b) Communicate your anger to the person in this way. Say something like this, “I have a problem when I heard you say…………… the other day. I felt hurt, upset, unappreciated (whatever is accurate) and angry. I’d like to work through with you what you meant, how I can change and how I can make you aware of the affect your words had on me.”
Give this a shot. Don’t get discouraged if people don’t respond well. This will always work best when the other person has bought into these same 12 steps as a common approach to resolving conflict. But this will improve things even if they don’t, because it is the right thing to do.
This is step 6 in our continuing series on 12 steps to resolving conflict.
Watch your tongue. Ask is it true, is it kind, is it necessary.
Do you know how dangerous the tongue is? It is such a little instrument like a spark of fire but it can cause huge damage. It’s much like the rudder of a ship – so small but it can turn an entire ship. You probably remember words a parent or others have said to you in anger. Those words just don’t go away. They result in you feeling unloved, unappreciated, unvalued. Well, you have the same power. So the next time you open your mouth, remember the power of your tongue. Use these questions as guidelines for everything you say. Ask:
a) Is it true? Don’t say things like “always”, “never”, or other words that are absolute. Say in this instance or in my opinion or sometimes etc
b) Is it kind? Hey think about it! We should be kind. There is never a reason to be rude, obnoxious, offensive or harmful. It doesn’t matter how horrible another person may be. Use the old golden rule here, “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” Treat others kindly just like you want to be treated. c) Is it necessary? So often we speak just to speak. Don’t do that. Say what is necessary. One wise leader said, “Even a fool seems wise if he keeps his mouth shut.” Don’t be guilty of verbal pollution. Instead, keep the verbal airways clean by saying only what is necessary.
This is step 7 in our continuing series on 12 steps to resolving conflict.
Speak the Truth Respectfully
You should always be truthful. Being truthful will keep you away from practicing flight, running away, denying or repressing conflict.
Truth is truth, but much of what we think is the truth is really opinion. And each of us thinks our own opinions are the right ones.
Do the work to determine if what you’re about to say is truth or opinion. But even if it is just your opinion, do express how you feel about a situation. You must be truthful.
People deserve to know what we are thinking and feeling. If you don’t do this you are bound to be stuck in the same cycle of miscommunication, hurt, frustration and other elements of pain. By getting the truth or even your perspective of the truth on the table you are beginning to address the real issue and can get to its root.
While you speak the truth, be respectful. Treat people with dignity. Be kind, generous, gracious, caring in your relationships. This is just the right thing to do.
Be gracious toward people. This will cause you not to practice flight – or demonstrate offensive, abrasive, bitter or abusive behaviour.
This is step 8 in our continuing series on 12 steps to resolving conflict.
Attack the problem, not the person.
There are few things more harmful than attacking a person’s character. We do this often when we try to handle conflict, the key is our language.
Don’t use “You” statements use “I’ statements.
Don’t say “You make me so mad,” or “You are such a pain.” Instead use words like, “I have a problem…when I see you do this I feel…” or “it seems to me” or “I think that…” etc.
Try to stick to the issues in an objective way rather than becoming overly passionate and emotive.
Remember when you use “you” statements you give the impression that you are attacking the person, and in some way you are.
Don’t back people into a corner. Using “I” statements give the other person some room to grow and preserve their dignity.
This is step 9 in our continuing series on 12 steps to resolving conflict.
Deal with specific areas, not generalisations.
There are few things worse than making overgeneralisations.
Men, don’t ever say to your wife, “You are just like your mother.” This is usually not complementary in the first place, and second it is not totally accurate. Instead be specific.
It is one thing for me to say to you, “You are a liar.” How does that make you feel? Probably worthless and defensive, does it not? It is too general and I am attacking your person. Instead I might say, “The other day when we were in this meeting I heard you say……. This didn’t align with my view of the facts. Can you help me understand the discrepancy?”
You see, there may be a perfectly good explanation, but at the very least, I have given you a gracious opportunity to address the real issues and clarify the problem without pinning you in a corner.