Few people I know like to the process of resolving disagreements. In fact, when they hear “conflict” they automatically equate it with fighting. Yet one is not comparable to the other. Conflict is simply two forces in opposition. Fighting is defined with such words as “violent, battle, combat, hostile encounter”. Conflict resolution need not be hostile at all. In fact, there are many advantages to having disagreements with others. Our differences challenge us to see things from another perspective, to open our minds to new possibilities, to learn and grow. We are given opportunities to expand our creative process of finding solutions. And on a spiritual level, we are asked to be considerate of others, to possibly put their needs before our own (unselfish), or to sacrifice completely with a generous heart so that the other person may benefit. Whatever the case, the process of finding resolution to our differences can be highly beneficial if we avoid making the following common mistakes:
1. Failure to remain calm: it’s easy to get excited, aggravated, frustrated, or angry when debating with another party. Emotions flair and a peaceful discussion quickly escalates to a bitter battle.
2. The long-winded approach: we tend to ramble and elaborate more than is absolutely necessary. This poses a risk of frustrating both parties, saying something inappropriate, or veering off topic.
3. Being close-minded or opinionated: a “my way or the highway” approach works with no one. Arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong is fruitless. “There’s only one solution” stifles the creative process and potentially overlooks the best solution.
4. Being unreasonable or unfair: being concerned only about the self creates an atmosphere of distrust. Making outrageous or impossible demands defeats the entire process, leaving both parties frustrated and annoyed.
5. Using fuel-injected statements: personal attacks, criticisms, digs, or disrespectful comments put the other party on the defensive and only escalate feelings of distrust and anger.
How then does one peacefully resolve disagreements before they become combative? Here are five simple solutions:
1. This is a discussion not a battle. Maintain a positive, solution-oriented mindset. Breathe to remain calm. Practice SWaT* if necessary. Remember you are attacking the problem, not the person.
2. Brief is better. Keep it short and to the point. Stick to the topic. Set a time limit if necessary.
3. Remain open-minded. Embrace new ideas. View this as a learning experience.
4. Consider the other person’s point of view as equal and valid as yours. They have the same rights as you do in having their needs met. Conceding, if possible, or finding an agreeable compromise validates them as a valuable human being.
5. Use calming, inclusive statements such as “I have faith that we can work this out.” “I really want you to be happy with the end result.”
Keep in mind that unless it is a matter of life or death, no issue needs to be resolved at that exact moment. Take time off. Rethink your position or the situation. Consider other alternatives. Ask for outside assistance if necessary. Be solution oriented. Remember, there are always multiple solutions to each challenge we face. Be patient. Be persistent. Trust that you are capable. And never forget to satisfy the other party as well.
*Stop, Walk, Talk Strategy from The Secret Side of Anger