Conflict ResolutionYou know that song from Carly Simon, “You’re So Vain”? Well, if you think this post is about you, please apply that song!  Dealing with conflict is always interesting, to say the least. In a very high-level search of the good ole internet, you obviously land on the ever-reliable Wikipedia. I do think that when it comes to social commentary, which this discusses, Wikipedia hits it on the head pretty well. Anyway, I saw these top 5 styles of Conflict Resolution:

  1. Avoidance conflict style – Characterized by inaction and passivity, avoidance conflict style is typically used when an individual has reduced concern for their own outcomes as well as the outcomes of others.
  2. Yielding conflict style – In contrast, yielding or “accommodating” conflict styles are characterized by a high concern for others while having a low concern for one’s own self.
  3. Competitive conflict style – Competitive or “fighting” conflict style maximizes individual assertiveness (i.e., concern for self) and minimizes empathy (i.e., concern for others).
  4. Cooperation conflict style – Characterized by an active concern for both pro-social and pro-self behavior, cooperation conflict style is typically used when an individual has elevated interests in their own outcomes as well as in the outcomes of others.
  5. Conciliation conflict style – Conciliation or “compromising” conflict style is typical of individuals who possess an intermediate-level of concern for both personal and others’ outcomes.

This is all great and dandy.  It is very socialistic and psychological in definition and nature.  They probably identify textbook situations or regression therapy methods, but do any of these styles really apply to how we live or, better yet, survive in life while keeping our sanity?

The first issue I see with these is that it is all about someone being right and, then conversely, someone being wrong.  They all refer to methods that place levels of importance for individuals, ideals, agendas, or behaviors (my favorite), so they immediately become socially hierarchical in nature.  That is, it is all about someone winning the argument.  You might argue (pun intended) that cooperation conflict or conciliation conflict style do not, but the winner there is always chivalry or a behavior that, in the end, convey a sense of dominance or “I’m better than you because I didn’t yell, scream, or dominate to get my way.”  We have all been around these type of resolvers and what we find is that the “issue” most never get’s resolved, it just get’s buried under piles and piles of emotion or self-imposed constraint that could blow at any moment like a 14 year old’s zit.  At least with competitive style conflict resolution, everyone is actually saying what they truly want out of the situation instead of beating around the bush trying to sound more in control.

I would like to suggest a complete shift in conflict resolution: forget about the conflict.  Conflict defined is, “to come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition.”  The first part of the statement really sums up the last part – “to come into collision.”  What if we didn’t collide because of disagreement?  What if we actually believed and acted in a way that said that the person on the other side of the seeming “conflict” was more important to us than an idea, a behavior, an agenda, etc.?  This is not one of those Kum Ba Ya moments or “can’t we all just be friends” kind of things.  I am a real person and know that you just ain’t gonna be friends with everyone and some people’s ideas are just flipping crazy.  But I will tell you that a very intelligent man once said, ” If I speak with human eloquence. . . but don’t hold others in high regard, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. . .”  He went on to say, “High regard doesn’t keep score. . .” The issue is that we try to control people when we get into “conflict” instead of being interested in the relationship (work, friend, acquaintance, family) that we have with them.  This was an issue a long time ago (and now too) with certain people groups trying to impose agendas for the simple end of control.  Another wise teacher once said, when confronting over control mechanisms, “You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up arguments. . . That’s what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that’s neither here nor there.”

There are many other smarter people who have the answers, but I just wanted to raise a few final questions that may change the way you look at conflict:

  • What is your reason for even entering into conflict?
  • Do you hold the person you are in conflict with in higher regard, on the grand scale of things, than what you are arguing over?
  • Are you willing to put down agendas in order to enhance or improve relationships?
  • Are you actually taking a position too personally and actually creating conflict that doesn’t exist (yep, ran into this one last week.  Before the end of the day, man, had I blown it out of proportion!)?

Just a few thoughts.

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