Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Conflict Resolution When No One Wants to Budge

Let’s face it, there are people who just rub us up the wrong way. And there are people who we rub up the wrong way. There’s an uneasiness between us, a mistrusting, and unless we are careful, it’s easy to get into seemingly intractable conflict with those who grate on us (and vice versa).

Yet even within the category of conflict triggers there’s one that I think tops the list and that’s when our view of the world is different from someone else’s.

Naturally, everyone and I mean everyone, sees the world differently from everyone else, and yet in many if not most cases our differences aren’t so great that we can’t get along.  Indeed, when the differences aren’t so obvious, we tend to focus on common ground and where we are similar. It’s how we can rub along with someone we may not fully agree with.  We’re more able and willing to resolve differences rather than fight over them.

Yet, when our world views are really different, therein lies the source of a lot of conflict.  Other people’s behaviour can not only seem puzzling, it can seem downright bizarre, confusing, incomprehensible and most importantly... WRONG!

What happens, of course, is that because my view if the world is ‘right’ and someone else’s view is ‘wrong’, and in turn, they think their view of the world is ‘right’ and mine is ‘wrong’, the chances of ever resolving our differences is pretty slim.

Changing the Status Quo

Something has to shift. Dare I use the word compromise?

The problem with a lot of conflict situations such as these is that compromise can feel like giving in, admitting you were wrong, having to eat humble pie, etc. None of these feelings are particularly pleasant and it feels easier sometimes to take an ‘uncompromising’ stance and sticking with it through thick and thin.

What if compromise wasn’t about giving in or admitting you were wrong? What if compromise was about trying to see things from the other person’s point of view even for a brief while?

I can just see some people harrumphing with their arms crossed that they don’t want to see it from another point of view because they KNOW they’re right. 

I really do know how tricky it can be to see the other person as anything but difficult when you are in the middle of a conflict with them. The great skill here is to be able to put your thoughts and feelings to one side, even for the shortest amount of time in order to try to see the world the way they do. 

Resolving Conflict

How do you see the other person as anything but difficult then?

There are two things you can focus on if you want to resolve conflict:

1) You have to want to resolve it
2) You have to dip into your empathy well

There’s no point trying to resolve conflict if you are just giving lip service to wanting to resolve it. If, however, you do want to then it means you are well on your way to finding a way to see the situation from ‘their’ point of view.

Not only that, if you genuinely want resolution then the impetus has to come from you.  Your goal is to help the other person shift from their entrenched position rather than standing your ground and waiting for them to make the first move.

If you couple that with empathy for what might be going on for the other person you are also in a much better position to build a bridge between you.

Using empathy to bridge-build means looking for something – anything – in their argument you can agree with, where you can see they have made a valid point. You don’t have to agree with everything they are saying, just one thing. It doesn’t even have to be the main crux of their argument; it’s surprising how agreeing with even the smallest thing can calm someone down and get them to a place where they can enter into a conversation with you.

Here are your four steps to building a bridge:

1) Find something to agree with
2) Agree with it
3) Zip your lip and give the other person enough space to speak
4) Avoid coming back with a counter-argument (e.g. sentences that begin with ‘but’, ‘however’, etc.) and respond with empathy, even if it’s for the strength of their feelings

If a conversation doesn’t begin to emerge, start the process over again. Agreement is a very powerful tool because it lets the other person know you have heard them. Empathy also lets the other person know you care about resolving the difficulties between you.

There are some conflicts that just don’t get resolved; what I like about this technique is that at least you know you’ll have tried something different in order to get a difference, and hopefully better results.

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