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Conflict Resolution

Dealing With Conflict

Sam Shorrosh asked:

Guidelines for Dealing with Conflict in the Family: Questions & Answers

I. Question: Is it more important for me to win this argument or strengthen our relationship?

Some people want to win an argument at any cost. Legitimate complaints should be heard out, and then responded too in a reasonable fashion. Write down what is said, repeat it back for clarification, and verify what and how it was meant. Ask for supporting facts or documentation.

Focus on the facts and make sure the conflict is legitimate. Misinformation, insecurity, envy, covetousness, greed, hidden anger, unresolved authority issues, are often at the heart of arguments.

Healthy persons recognize not all arguments are legitimate arguments.

Conflict often reveals areas in which we need to work toward maturity. As we identify our weak spots, seek better ways to express our thoughts, and release our former ways of thinking, we can redirect our thinking process such that behavioral choices begin to change.

II. Question: What do I do if I am the source of the conflict?

1. If you are responsible for creating the conflict, consider your level of involvement and make your part right. You may have to pay things back or apologize, perhaps even surrender to officials. Then, start fresh, learn new habits and reinforce them daily.

2. If not directly responsible, direct your attention toward seeking a solution. Finger pointing and blaming are excuses to delay resolution and make victims of us all. Focus on communication, especially tone, volume, word choices, emotional content, and so on.

III. Question: How do I respond if the conflict situation seems to come from “left-field”?

1. Is your habit to “pounce” on others using an accusation out of left-field? NO! And neither should they. Refuse to be baited into an argument. Instead, ask for evidence or supporting documentation, and if none is provided reject the accusation as unfounded. No evidence means no case! However, consider what openings you may inadverdently have provided for such accusations. Are you misrepresenting your best self? Do you make sarcastic or caustic statements that could be interpreted even worse? Are you too comfortable with being the office cynic or “intellectual”? Would you want everybody doing what you are doing?

2. Unbundle accusations. Ask the accuser to prove each item. Refuse to “eat the elephant” in one bite. Separate the events and deal with them as separate issues. Ask the person to decide what, in their opinion, is the most important issue and beware the person who compounds unrelated issues to create a false pattern of behavior. Hold them to one issue to resolve at a time. If you find they discard each accusation as soon as you give an answer then realize they do not want resolution–they want your head. Remember at this point that the burden of proof is on the accuser. Don’t make their case for them.

My missionary parents were fond of quoting scripture and explaining its application. When asked the question above, they cited Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” But, they were quick to state that a gentle answer doesn’t mean a weak answer. Be gentle in the face of harshness, take the high road, choose to be the adult in the conversation, allow their insecurities and attitudes to wash over you without taking responsibility for their emotional state. You can be guilty of what they can prove but you did not choose their emotional response FOR them!

3. If you find the accuser has no support, other than their own opinion, then ask them to accept that what they have is simply a different point of view. Opinions are not the same as facts. Ask the accuser, or conflicted individual to stop making accusations they cannot support. Ask for an apology. Ask that they not bring it up again. Let them know that if they continue to bring up false accusations you will appeal to a high authority and their reputation could be compromised.

IV. Question: What if they “apologize” but keep a list of wrongs and bring it up again in the future?

1. Apologies are the basis for reestablishing trust. People who apologize and keep doing the same things show their word cannot be trusted. The Holy Bible give clear instructions on how to respond:

Exodus 23:7 “Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.”

Psalm 101:4-5 “Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil. Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure.”

Psalm 101:7 “No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.”

Ephesians 5:11 “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”

Titus 3:10-11 “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”

2. Habitual apologizers who keep repeating the conflict causing behavior need professional help. Compulsive behaviors often signal the presence of mental or personality disorders. Kindly, and gently, suggest to the habitually conflicted person that their habit of creating and sustaining conflict is something they need to review carefully. Suggest they talk with the HR director about getting counseling. Remind them that if you didn’t care about them you wouldn’t make the offer. Offer to go with them to the first meeting with a counselor and agree you will support them as they make necessary changes.

Healthy people with healthy minds do not go around creating trouble. They are peacemakers not troublemakers. Let me suggest that you consider the following traits of honest, loving relationships, as both foundation and ongoing goals for measuring your life:

Love is patient, love is kind. Are you?

Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Do you envy and boast?

Love is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. For better or worse, is this you?

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Is your focus this positive?

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Proactive not Passive is the way to go!

V. Question: How should I confront others?

Memorize the following statements:

•I will face my problems

•I will accept responsibility for my part

•I will avoid placing blame for the situation

•I will control my volume and tone of my words

•I will use “I” language rather than “you” language

•I will consider my timing for confrontation

•I will share my opinions without demanding obedience to my suggestions

Life is about becoming! That means we learn to listen to outside sources of information, seeking ways to improve our self-understanding and the understanding of others. Conflict is almost always a gauge of two things: How we are doing and how others are doing. Sometimes the bag is a mixed one with responsibility on both sides. Agree that the issue to resolve is more important than fighting over who is right and using defense mechanisms to protect our insecurities.

One time, I was called in to see the district manager in his office. He knew that I was a peacemaker having noted that I often calmed people down and worked through problems using a collaborative approach.

I entered his office and when the door clo
sed behind me, I saw only the glowing tip of his cigar in the darkened room. Creeped out for sure, I fumbled my way to a chair, barely visible by the light from under the door behind me. He told me to sit. And, for
the next five minutes (seemed like hours), he sat in his chair, smoked, and said nothing. I chose to relax, not go over a list of possible things I might have done wrong, and just wait him out.

When he finally spoke, he said, “I have noticed you have a way of dealing with people that makes you alot of friends. I don’t have many friends in my life. I need some help understanding why your way works and mine doesn’t.” As he began to pour out his frustrations and fears I began to realize he was probably suffering from clinical depression. The darkened room, the brooding, the intimidation ploys, his paranoias about workers, and other hints began to paint a clear picture.

When he finally stopped, an hour later, I took a deep breath and said, “I have a good friend who can help. He is a kind of relationship coach. If you are willing, I would be glad to take you to see him and make the introductions. What day and time next week would work best for you?”

Without attacking his problem, I maintained my boundaries as a worker, and took him to see a good therapist. I am glad to say that before I left that organization a few months later, my boss was showing positive changes in how he dealt with coworkers.

Never neglect the power you have for helping others if you refuse the urge to distance yourself from others. If everyone distanced everyone else, we would fall apart as a society and as a nation. Individuality is important, rampant individualism is the sign of a failing culture. Do your part to stay connected to people in an active way. Stay in touch with friends. Talk to your family even if they are mean. You set the pace and allow them to own their feelings. Bring the full weight of your best self to bear on others and allow them to make adjustments. You CAN change your workplace and your life.

Sam Shorrosh

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