Conflict Doesn’t Have to Be Scary
Republished from the October 2006 issue of our Grayfiti newsletter:
Happy Halloween! We may no longer be afraid of the ghosts and goblins that scared us as children, but what about the ghosts of our pasts that create present conflicts? How confident are you that you will not run from them?
All of us create conflicts big and small at various times of our lives, and we avoid conflict at other times. It’s part of being (*gasp*) human. We know that avoidance—rather than resolution—of conflict will only transfer the conflict to other areas. Yet we naturally choose this transfer. We subconsciously think we can resolve it by moving it to an area we can manage more competently.
Instead of confronting our partners or dissatisfied spouses, we withhold sex or have affairs to punish their perceived lack of appreciation. Rather than approaching management personnel with our concerns, disgruntled workers quit unexpectedly or file workers’ compensation claims to make employers pay for the “pain” they suffer on the job. In preference to self-analysis and transformation, unhappy people blame people or events for their situations and wait for someone or something to save them. I suspect we try to avoid it because we do not feel we can effectively resolve it.
Imagine how your life would change dramatically if you could skillfully resolve conflicts with family members as competently as you do at work, or vice versa. Imagine what your life would look like if you could help yourself as well as you help your friends, neighbors and co-workers to have more happiness in their lives.
What does happiness have to do with business? Everything! Human Resources departments were created because employers began to realize that they had to manage their people as delicately as they managed their finances. They learned that happy people make happy workers, happy workers make happy customers, happy customers make happy investors, and happy investors re-invest in the businesses that make them happy. Replace the word “happy” with “conflicted” every time you see it. Remember again what happens when people are conflicted?
I am developing a conflict resolution program that employs techniques you can practice to minimize, if not resolve, every conflict in your life. I suggest you first approach every conflict, big or small, as follows.
Pass no judgments.
Trust that there are no limitations.
Practice using these techniques first with some small conflicts in your life. Are you angry at your boss for giving you more work when you are already working late every night and taking work home on the weekends? Don’t assume she wants to exhaust you so you will quit. She may even want you to succeed beyond your wildest imagination. Don’t judge her because she is going home before you. She may have a reasonable need, or she may have spoken to her boss about the need to delegate work more effectively so she doesn’t burn out. Don’t get attached to only one solution. There may be several solutions to the workload conflict. Start by approaching your boss and opening the conversation with something such as “I’m having some trouble, and I need your help. Can we work out a system that will allow me to get all of the work done you need me to but in a more reasonable number of hours each week?”
You might be surprised to learn that your boss has been too busy herself to notice how busy you are. She probably knows that you’re working hard and getting the job done. But she may not realize how late you are working or how often you are taking work home. Again, assume nothing. Don’t pass judgment and start reacting to that judgment before you have the facts.
Trust that when people are willing to work together, they can do amazing things. As you practice and become more proficient with these techniques, you will be able to handle the bigger conflicts more skillfully. There is nothing scary about that! It’s up to you: Trick or Treat?
Over the next few months, I’ll continue sharing tips from my program, “Listening with Your Third Ear: Using Mediation Principles to Resolve Any Conflict.” I will also present it for the first time at the Southern California Mediation Association conference on November 4, 2006. The conference will be held at the Malibu campus of Pepperdine University. For more information or registration, go to www.scmediation.org.