The #1 Thing You Can Do In A Conflict

When you’re dealing with people, conflict is inevitable. As the father of two sets of twins, I find this topic fascinating. There are usually at least two differing opinions on each topic:

“This is mine.” | “No, it’s mine.”
“Give it to me.” | No, let go.”

Watching young kids in conflict, I often see the ‘take my ball and go home’ approach. Watching adults in conflict, I also often see a thinly-veiled ‘take my ball and go home’ approach. Sometimes, it’s simply a lot easier if we avoid conflict altogether. We can agree to disagree, but I’ve learned that what I really want is to lie in wait until I have the upper hand. Then I’ll engage in conflict with you. Or I‘ll remember this instance, and use it to trump you the next time you have an idea. But if we’re willing to stay in the conflict throughout the entire cycle, then we can get to a resolution. Rarely is conflict resolution achieved because one party got things settled a hundred percent their way.

I think it’s fascinating to watch how people respond when the conflict begins. I’m not conflict adverse. I believe I learned that from my mom. However, my wife is very conflict adverse, and I’m pretty sure that she learned it from her mom. Like most things in life, we follow what we see. Which way is right? My way, of course. (Just kidding.) The correct answer is I don’t know.

So how do we stay in the cycle throughout–and why should we? Here’s what I do know about every conflict I’ve been involved with in my life. If I don’t feel like I’ve been listened to and really heard, nothing’s going to get resolved. I mean, I really have to feel that I’ve been heard, and I really have to listen and consider the other person’s point of view–not just give lip service to it. Once those two things happen, it’s much easier for me to spend my time collaborating on a solution.

If neither of those things have occurred, then the person that doesn’t feel heard continues selling their point of view. They add factoids, stories, analogies–anything to get heard. The cycle never ends. It only goes back and forth, and nothing is resolved. We just take our ball, go home and wait until the next time we have a chance to get even. I hadn’t considered listening as being the key to solving conflict, or at least cycling through it. Maybe it’s not the key per se, but I think it starts there. What do you think? I promise I will listen.

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