You might want different things from the resolution of a conflict. It could range from a financial settlement to just being able to look at the other person and have a face to face, open and frank discussion about what happened and why. It’s a question that people ask during conflict and sometimes, get the answer. Sometimes, they don’t.
Thinking about many of my clients, they often wanted the other party to do things which the courts cannot order. You can’t order somebody to apologise and neither can you make them understand your pain, however deep it may have run.
Understanding early on what you want to achieve out of resolving conflict, will help you to identify the best way of doing it. If you just want to collect a debt, then legal action may be the better option, as well as direct negotiation. Sometimes, we want a combination of things. You might want a debt paid but also recognition of the financial hardship this put you in. That’s where mediation might help.
You might also want revenge and so punishment could be an objective. Think carefully about whether you really want this or whether this is an expression of the pain you have suffered. If you can punish the other person, what will this look like and will it satisfy you?
What Conflict Does To Us
The list of possible emotional reactions to conflict is endless. You might even relish conflict, as I do when I am analysing arguments and thinking about the best way to communicate or approach the situation. For me, the joy of conflict is seeing a client feel empowered by using skills that we all have, to voice our emotions, desires, needs and interests. By doing this in a constructive and considered way which rises above the turmoil of our emotions, you really are powerful. For many of us, including myself, that’s a work in progress!
I don’t always feel that way about conflict. It can make me feel vulnerable, humiliated, sad, exhausted, unacknowledged, betrayed, disconnected, anxious and a myriad of other feelings. Conflict can impact self-esteem and arouse feelings of anger. It seeps out into every aspect of our lives and our relationships with others. Most of the time, we don’t even realise what the conflict has done and we can’t pinpoint those deeper emotions that might be linked to childhood experiences.
These types of responses are normal, regardless of the type of conflict. Looking into a conflict from the outside, I might be surprised at the intensity of emotion between the parties over something which seems trivial, but to the parties, the conflict has tapped into something deeply personal to them.
What We Really Want To Achieve By Resolving Conflict
Irrespective of the type of conflict, there may be several conflict resolution goals that you wish to achieve. Here are three of the most common:
We all need to feel acknowledged and this is especially true when resolving conflict. By this, I mean that our feelings need to be recognised when we have been hurt.
The need to punish somebody is related to a need for them to acknowledge what they have done to you. You may wish to see them humiliated and defeated, feeling exactly what you felt. If this is what you want, you probably feel quite angry about the conflict. We can acknowledge each other’s pain and suffering with empathy and by saying something like, “ I can see that you feel angry and hurt because of my actions [state exactly what you did] and I promise you that I will not do this again.” Before you do this, take time to acknowledge your own emotional response.
This can take the form of compensation, replacing something that was lost, destroyed or taken or it could mean resuming or terminating a relationship once and for all. In short, it puts the conflict to rest both practically and emotionally by satisfying your needs and interests.
Some people like the silent treatment because it can be a powerful way to undermine another person. It doesn’t, however, allow you to voice your suffering or your aims. It can also be used as a way of avoiding conflict.
Even if a full-blown mediation is not an option, what often helps to put matters to rest is to have a constructive conversation about how you feel. Many of us want to ask why they did what they did. Others want to tell the other person that they don’t feel hurt or angry and they do not want any form of reconciliation.
It doesn’t even need to be a discussion. I recently listened to a song about an argument the singer had with a friend. He wished he could understand why they were strangers after years of friendship, and how much they had lost during the time they hadn’t been in contact. If you aren’t that creative, letter writing is also helpful in making sense of what you need and feel. Even if you don’t send it, it really helps to write to the other person and tell them what you wish you could in person. This certainly helps with perspective and could be all you really need to move on.
Hopefully, this blog post will help you take a step back from the emotion of conflict, take a deep breath and ask yourself what you really want from it. You have the choice to decide and the ability to transform it into something that can help you grow from it.
As usual, let me know what you think by leaving a comment below!