Dr. Rhoberta Shaler Hits: 1997
You think you should be able to handle that conflict you have. And, likely, you’re very sure that, if only the other person would change, the conflict would cease. Two myths!
MYTH ONE: YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO HANDLE A CONFLICT YOURSELF
Granted, by the time you are considered an adult—at least in height—you will have encountered enough situations of conflict that you will have some strategies.
Unfortunately, some key strategies folks develop involve running away, internalizing the conflict, or blowing up the relationship through some artless conversation. They obviously don’t work but they may be the best you have in your repertoire.
In a perfect world, everyone would receive systematic communication and conflict management training before they leave school. But, not so! It seems most folks acquire their skills from observing or reacting to the adults around them while they were growing up. That’s the basic training. The advanced training involves further lessons in the School of Hard Knocks and graduating there often leaves students with a fearful, cock-eyed view of the usefulness of conflict!
Again, in that perfect world, conflict would be seen as creative, opening the door for further communication. In a skilled world, that is so. In the real world, not so much.
If you know that your ability to manage conflict is low and your desire, even lower, then using a mediator is a brilliant move—especially if you care about the relationship. You will be safe. Your views will be heard. The issue will be discussed. And, an agreement will be reached. It may take a few visits, but, you’ll feel so much better.
MYTH TWO: IF ONLY THE OTHER PERSON WOULD CHANGE, THE CONFLICT WOULD CEASE.
Simply, it takes two to tango.
The best use of conflict is to learn about each other and that requires a knowledge of yourself. It’s very difficult to teach someone about you, if you are unfamiliar with the subject! Coming to clarity about who you are, what you want and why you want it is essential to resolving conflict in a sustainable manner. Just wanting the other person to stop doing what they are doing and do what you want is definitely a strategy for ostriches…and bullies!
Two or more adults entering into mediation start the process by having individual meetings with the mediator to understand and define the issue from each person’s perspective. This helps you come to that clarity required and offers the opportunity of reflection in response to the mediator’s questions. It will help you develop a 360° view of the issue. That’s difficult to accomplish on your own…especially when you’re angry, irritated and upset…and, sure you’re right!
When people are in conflict, their fear often drives them to insist on their points of view. They become a lot like those people who think that, if they talk louder to a person who does not speak English well, they will be understood better. It’s not useful, only irritating.
Why is Myth 2 so important? It makes a participant in a conflict think s/he could find an emotional by-pass lane and avoid introspection and change. Not so!
MEDIATION : CARING ENOUGH ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP TO FIND AN EQUITABLE SOLUTION
Whether you are engaged in a conflict with your partner, your spouse, your landlord or a co-worker, mediation accelerates finding an equitable solution. What are the benefits?
- You are forced to clarify the issue AND your feelings
- You are safe from your fear of being trampled, squashed, belittled or ignored
- You will have equal airtime
- You have the opportunity of expressing your thoughts, feelings & desired outcomes
- You actively participate in the crafting of a solution and/or agreement
- You learn new ways of communicating in the process
It is wise to engage a neutral, trained, experienced third-party to help you resolve ongoing or potentially-explosive conflicts. If you care about yourself and you care about the results, working with a mediator is the safest, most direct approach to creating fair, sustainable agreements and solutions.
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, is a peace catalyst, an expert in the communication, conflict management and collaboration skills that make relationship work within, at home and at work. She makes it easier to talk about difficult things. Author of Wrestling Rhinos: Conquering Conflict in the Wilds of Work, she facilitates collaboration, mediates disputes and enhances skills. Dr. Shaler helps you create the culture and consciousness to optimize relationships and results. Follow her blog: www.SowPeace.com and visit www.ADRatWork.com as well.