I abhor arguing. It’s a waste of precious time and energy and robs me of my serenity. Conflict, however, is horse of another color. Conflict occurs daily in each of our lives. It simply means that there is a disagreement, a difference of opinion. My husband and I engage in disputes on a regular basis yet interestingly enough have had fewer than five arguments in our eighteen year marriage. Unlike popular opinion, conflict is not synonymous with fighting. I’m willing to engage in a discussion but will never allow it to escalate into a battle. Let me explain by first clarifying the words I’m referring to: conflict is two opposing forces; to argue is to give reason for or against something, to prove or try to prove (this often entails the need to be right); fighting seeks to gain authority over another by way of struggle, a hostile encounter between two parties.
Let’s take a closer look at each. Two people, each with a different set of beliefs, preferences, needs, or goals enter into a conversation: a wife dreams of traveling around the world while her husband wants to settle down and have a family – conflict. One person is raised Christian, another Jew, and yet another with no beliefs in a higher power form a friendship and share their beliefs – conflict. Conflict even occurs in nature: a sun shower, salmon swimming upstream to lay their eggs, a collision of warm air with a cold front. The difference between human discord and natural divergence is that in nature there is no ego to complicate matters. Humans have an inherent need to be right, to win in order to feel good about themselves, to raise their sense of worth. Nature on the other hand simply allows differences to occur and works within the context of its ever changing circumstances. Yet when two creatures of the human species disagree ego wages war on the so-called offending party, prepared to prove it’s superiority and claim victory over its opponent. What begins as a simple disagreement quickly rivals The War of the Roses.
But there is an alternative. Many disagreements can be readily resolved in a matter of minutes by adhering to the following fifteen minute protocol:
1. Allow each party sixty seconds (that’s right: one measly minute) to state their position. This prevents the dialogue from becoming contaminated with blame and excuses or veering off track. Total time: two minutes.
2. Each party is allotted thirty seconds to state their desired outcome, what they would ideally like to see happen. Total time: one minute.
3. Both parties must contribute a minimum of three possible solutions. This allows for six potentially workable resolutions. Each person is permitted three minutes. Total time: six minutes.
4. Together, extract the best components of each suggestion and determine which elements can successfully be incorporated into the final solution. Tweak if necessary. Total time: six minutes.
Approximately 13% of the total time focuses on the challenging situation leaving a whopping 87% to finding a workable and mutually satisfying remedy.
The advantages of a Fifteen Minute Conflict Resolution Solution is that by moving the process along quickly one dramatically reduces the chances that the situation will escalate into an argument or fight. The mind must remain focused on finding a solution rather than concerning itself with being right. Time is of the essence and one cannot afford to become distracted by ego. Putting this issue to rest allows both sides to move forward to the more enjoyable aspects of living. Short and sweet = complete. Pretty cool, don’t you agree?