Thursday, June 17, 2010

The First Rule of Conflict Resolution

I have recently been dealing with the stumblings of a colleague with regard to his manner of dealing with conflict. The circumstances of the conflict are irrelevant, as they always are. Allow me to explain. Conflict is bound to happen. I think it has something to do with man being a social animal. The conflict, from my perspective, occurs because the autonomy of the individual--I guess you could say the individual's solitude or oneness or ego--anyway, the individual with personal desires and personal ambitions and personal space issues comes in contact with other individuals, all with similar desires, ambitions, and space issues. The group of individuals actually benefit from being in contact with each other, but their personal desires and such are now bumping against the personal desires of others. That is what causes conflict and, consequently leads to the first rule of conflict resolution:

Don't make the conflict personal.

We have to recognize that the conflict is made up of a matter of circumstances that seem to be at odds. Therefore, the best way to resolve the conflict is to examine the circumstances and to consider how they might best be resolved. However, the conflict becomes more complicated when the persons involved choose to make the conflict a matter of personal pride, personal dignity, personal hurt. One can always tell when this happens because people begin to make accusations: "But you said...;" "You have never liked me;" "I was forced to act..." The people involved in the conflict want to blame somebody. They want to absolve themselves of all responsibility. They want to win and that means somebody else has to lose.

Conflicts are not sporting events, although sporting events are made of conflict. Indeed, if most people stopped thinking about their personal gain or loss before the conflict occurs, there would be less conflict. People would then base their actions on the integrity of the moment, on the more mutually beneficial way to act.

A good practice in training one's self to deal with conflict in line with the first rule of conflict resolution is to practice writing and talking without using personal pronouns or names. This practice gives communication an academic tone, and an academic tone is more objective, open to hearing the facts before passing judgment. In contrast, when people make a conflict personal, they pass judgment before considering the facts. The conflict is made complicated by personal prejudice.

Practice the first rule of conflict resolution. Don't make it personal