Key Conflict Considerations
What should I do about a conflict ?
Conflicts, arguments disputes, whatever terminology you use, make us feel vulnerable. Some people thrive on confrontation and make it the basis of how they interact with others. Perhaps you can think about a relationship you have with somebody which is invigorated by passionate discussion, an ability to be honest about any tension or discomfort or you feel safe, knowing that confrontation won’t lead to the end of your relationship. To have this sense of security and trust in another person is rare, beautiful and should be treasured.
But not all of our relationships are as durable. More importantly, not all of us can articulate why we are offended by something without becoming overwhelmed with emotion. Our primal instinct is to be worried about violence or sometimes, worse; a breakdown of the relationship.
I have listed below some important conflict considerations that you should think about before contemplating how you deal with it.
If you want to be free of a particular conflict, it is often necessary to drop the idea that one person will win or lose. Our legal system is all about winning and losing and in many situations, that is more appropriate, especially when there is a criminal element. However, imagine this scenario:
I have a long-standing relationship with a client who I trust to allow her to use the content on my website as part of her company’s in-house newsletter. I do this as a gesture of good will. I find out, however, that the client had lied to me about her intentions and actually sold this on as an article in a leading newspaper, passing it off as her own. I feel betrayed, deceived and let down. What I want is an apology; an acknowledgment that she has breached my trust. She refuses, so my other option is to start legal proceedings. I win, but I’m still left with negative feelings and our relationship is probably lost forever. In other words, the courts deal with the dispute, not the emotional conflict.
Taking an holistic approach
My dispute has been resolved but the conflict persists. However, putting conflict to bed, feeling free from it and able to move on, requires a holistic approach that addresses your emotions and the more rational elements of the dispute. That’s the beauty of mediation. It’s not winning. It’s about finding a durable resolution collaboratively, in a way that serves you and your emotions best.
When thinking about resolving conflict, consider the following:
- How important is my relationship with the other person? Is it in your interests to damage it? Can you recover from any negative consequences if you let it go?
- Does the other person want an amicable resolution? You can tell this by gauging from their correspondence with you, what their tone is. Have you asked them directly, how they feel about mediation or negotiating? In my experience, it helps to express a willingness to reach an amicable solution and to invite the other person to agree;
- Is it worth it? Conflict is exhausting, stressful and can cost money, especially if legal proceedings are commenced. A simple cost analysis can be used if your conflict relates to a contractual obligation to pay. For example, in pursuing the debt owed, are you incurring more time and money than the debt is worth? Consider your commercial relationships and reputation as well. It’s not so straight forward when you can’t stand your boss (but you might consider whether you want to continue your employment with this person) or an employee is giving you grief, worse still when it’s a close family member. That said, your mental and emotional well-being are usually more important.
- Can you move on? This is probably the most important question. If you feel aggrieved by a conflict but believe that neither talks nor litigation will lead to anything positive, try (it’s not easy!!) to accept that you are doing what is best for yourself. It will feel unfair and you may feel undervalued but file this experience under “wisdom” and congratulate yourself for recognising what is important.
I’m not advocating that you become a door mat; far from it. What I’m encouraging is effective and appropriate resolution strategies and sometimes that means walking away. After all, choosing your battles carefully will conserve your energy, time, resources and well-being.
Contact me for help, assistance or advice. Or why not leave a comment!