Conflict is Tough
Conflict resolution has been something I’ve tried to work on for many years. Sometimes I’ve been successful in resolving conflict with others and there have been times it didn’t turn out so well. In the corporate world, I found that many people think they will be most successful in handling their issues with you when they go straight to the top and not talk to you about it at all. In our personal lives, we sometimes resort to a more childish action and shut people out. Even with our own families, if we have a problem, we may shun them from our lives or make sure everyone knows what the other person has done. This isn’t helpful to any situation. There is a process to how issues with others should be handled.
1. Approach the Other Person First
Most people will tell you I’m very blunt. I call it like it is. Unfortunately, that also makes people think I’m sometimes not approachable. In the past, when I have wronged someone, they haven’t come to talk to me about it. Usually, they would tell someone else what I had done and it would make its way around. Meanwhile, I had no idea I even did anything.
If you really want to resolve conflict, go to the other person who has wronged you and talk to them about it. Is it going to be uncomfortable? Probably, but we don’t always get to do things that are comfortable. Steven Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, writes how we should seek to understand the other person not be understood. We can’t do this unless we are willing to go speak with them.
2. Meet with a Mediator
So conflict wasn’t initially resolved when you met with the person one-on-one. That’s OK, and if you met with them attempting to understand instead of be understood, you probably came pretty close. When you are unable to come to a resolution of an issue with someone after meeting with them, you need to call in a mediator. At work, this can be a mutually trusted colleague, a non-direct manager of either involved, or anyone from outside the two of you who you both trust. If your conflict resides in the home or with friends, call in a mutual friend, a pastor, a family coach, a counselor, or anyone you both trust to help.
A mediator is important because many times, we as humans, tend to exaggerate the real problem in our mind. We blow everything out of proportion. A mediator can help bring things down to reality. As a parent, you know exactly what a mediator looks like because if you have two or more kids, you act as a mediator every day. At least I do. My kids blow everything out of proportion, and I get to talk to each of them together and tell them how it looks from where I sit. We help give both perspectives so each person better understands. That’s how a mediator should act in this process.
3. Take It Up the Chain
You still have conflict that needs to be resolved after meeting with a mediator. That could mean a few things:
- the issue will not go away or stop from happening
- one or (most likely) both of you refuse to forgive the other
- one (or most likely) both of you refuse to see the other person’s perspective.
It could mean a few more things on a deeper level, but that’s another post for another day.
Since the conflict isn’t getting resolved, NOW is the time to get help from your boss, their boss, and HR as well. If this a personal relationship matter, you can take it up with your church as an organization (not just the pastor but he needs to be made aware first) or a large group of mutual friends (most people call this an intervention). If this is or could affect any organization you’re a part of, you can take it up with them as well.
The organization’s job is to set a bar of expectation on both you and the person you have conflict with. The resolution is no longer in your hands once this step is initiated.
In a company, the expectations can be any number of things from simple separation from each other up to a full investigation. You need to make sure you’re willing to go through whatever the company requires of you to get this resolved.
In a personal relationship matter, whomever you take it to, just like in a company, the expectations can vary. You have to be ready for the group’s decision.
4. Release the Offender
This is probably the hardest step for everyone involved. Whether this is in a company setting or personal, the results are the same. The offending person refuses to repent from what they’re doing. Since the last step was take it up the chain, you as a person involved have nothing left to do but work with the organization who set the expectations. The organization now has to make a decision. Do we allow a toxic environment by keeping the person around? Do we attempt to improve our environment by releasing them?
This is a tough decision for anyone. I wish I could say that in a corporate environment, releasing someone is easier than in a personal setting. It’s not. In fact, if you’re the person making the decision, it’s probably harder since you know the person has to support themselves some how after they leave. In a personal setting, we don’t like to shun people, but if they’re toxic to our world, we have to show them love by letting them learn we cannot accept that type of behavior. We have to remove them from our lives and organizations.
Tough Decisions Have to be Made
Conflict resolution is hard. Mostly because our society says we must accept everything that happens to us and not risk offending someone else. Unfortunately, no one considers when they offend us. If we take it to them one-on-one, we may be viewed as attacking that person. Forget all of that nonsense. When you confront someone with something they did to you, do it lovingly and tell them what happened hurt you and why. Ask why they did it, and seek to understand their side of it. Their perspective may be different than yours and they didn’t realize they did anything to you at all.
After you talk to people one-on-one, conflict resolution starts to get even more uncomfortable if you do it correctly. These decisions to do it correctly, help us grow. We develop into more open individuals and are willing to listen to the other person. Even if it takes a mediator to get us there, that’s OK. Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re less of a person because you seek counsel in areas of your life.
Most highly successful people are successful because they ask for outside help. Michael Hyatt writes about asking for counseling to help resolve conflict in marriage. He says the counselor tells him “Because it’s healthy to admit that you can’t do it all on your own and could use some perspective.”
If you need to resolve some conflict in your life. I suggest following these steps to get there. You won’t always get a resolution you like, but you will be able to understand another perspective and hopefully grow a relationship by doing so.