Conflict conversations often go wrong when the two parties disengage too soon. As Daniel Dana, author of Conflict Resolution, says; people often don’t “argue” long enough because of a hard-wired behavioral approach commonly known as the “fight-or-flight” response. This natural response can serve us well as a protection from physical harm, but it seldom helps during the normal interpersonal conflicts we experience at home and at work. Our natural response tends to create two behaviors that short-circuit effective conflict conversations:
- The “fight” response often leads to the “power-play” approach – raised voice, aggressive body language, and emotional outbursts. Power-plays usually lead to hurt feelings and damaged relationships.
- The “flight” response often leads to the “walk-away” approach – withdrawal, leaving the room, and avoidance. Walk-aways leave conflict unresolved and issues unaddressed.
Following a simple process to control these inappropriate responses can help you to effectively self-mediate many interpersonal conflicts.
The process goes like this:
- Define the problem in behaviorally specific terms.
Your anger (frustration, irritation, hurt feelings, etc.) is not the real problem. Frequent miscommunication, chronic misunderstandings, or your inability to work productively together may be how you define the problem. Carefully examine the situation and identify a non-accusatory, objective description of it.
- Deliver the invitation to meet.
Resist the urge to get drawn-in to a conversation on-the-spot. You want to schedule a time for a conversation. You probably do not want to have the conversation immediately. You definitely do not want to have it “on-the-fly.”
- Decide on a time and place for a discussion.
Set aside 2 hours for an uninterrupted conversation. It may not take the full 2 hours. You just want to allow plenty of time to reach resolution.
- Discuss the problem and how you will resolve it.
During the discussion:
- Resist the urge to leave too soon (walk-away) or to push too hard (power-play). Encourage the other party to do the same.
- Notice and comment on anything positive the other person says. For example, make sure you verbally recognize when they: acknowledge your perspective, apologize for their actions, or take responsibility for their contribution.
- Stick with it until you both agree on a course of action. You do not have to agree on every individual point, and you do not need to reach the point of liking each other. You just need an action plan for moving forward.
- Document your action plan.
In many cases, both of you may want to sign and keep a copy of your agreement.
This process works well under the following conditions:
- You are in a long-term, interdependent relationship with the other person.
- Both of you have the authority to take the actions to resolve the conflict.
- The conflict is big enough that you need to address it and small enough to not require formal resolution procedures – i.e. grievance procedures, litigation, etc.
- The risk of retaliation is low – i.e. they do not have a history of abusing their authority.
- You do not expect them to resort to physical violence.
Many of the conflict situations we face in life will meet these conditions. If the conflict you face meets these conditions, I encourage you to apply. . .
The 5 Ds to Mediate Your Own Conflicts.