October 21, is Conflict Resolution Day so I want to provide a model for resolving conflict while maintaining the relationship, because relationships are important. When you think about who you might have a conflict with, it is often people you care about or a high-stake relationship: couples, parents and children, bosses and workers, teachers and students, co-workers or friends. When you and someone important to you are in conflict, it’s important to begin with the right mindset so you will ask the right questions.
The US Army has a concept they call “battle-mind.” This means that when they are on a mission, they need to give it their 100 percent focus. The goal is to accomplish the mission without regard for any distractions that divert from the mission. Unfortunately, when humans have conflict with other humans, it is frequently with that same battle-mind mindset. This does not bode well for the relationship when each person is focused on getting what they want exclusively.
I imagine conflict as a box that is between two or more people. For the purposes of this article, let’s talk about two people in conflict. The problem, or box, is placed between them where each person tends to point over the box at the other person, blaming them for the box. This can trigger a downward spiral for the relationship, as blame is one of the destructive relationship habits. Does it really matter who is to blame when the goal is to solve and remove the box? No, so the first step in conflict resolution is a mindset shift from battle-mind to cooperation.
The idea is that you both have a box in front of you that you want to solve. Instead of seeing each other as the enemy in a battle, it is important for you to join forces, hold hands or link arms, and together walk a full 360 degrees around the box so you can both see it from all angles, instead of the fixed perspective you have when you are looking over the box at the other person. Engage your curiosity and creativity to see the challenge from the other person’s view, as well as yours.
Once you have surveyed the situation from all sides, name the problem and commit to finding a solution together. This shifts the entire energy of the situation and allows you to ask the right question. Instead of, “How can I get what I want?” shift to, “How can we both get what we need?” You are not only strategizing your own win, but a win for the other person, and consequently, a win for your relationship.
Both of you need to talk about your ideal solutions for the issues. Get in touch with and communicate what needs would be met by your solutions for you. There are five basic needs so solutions would either increase your need for Safety & Security, Connection, Significance, Freedom, Joy or some combination thereof. While the other person is talking, your job is to listen intently to understand their point of view. Understanding does not mean you need to agree. Obviously, a boss and their worker, a parent and child, or teacher and student are going to perceive issues differently and therefore, propose different solutions.
If there is a way for both of you to have what you want, then the conflict can be quickly resolved. People in the western world often think in terms of either/or, forcing a choice. While eastern cultures tend to think of both/and solutions. For the purposes of conflict resolution, a both/and mindset will serve you best.
If that is not possible, then you will want to think of how each person can get the most of what they want. When they can’t have what they want, they must at minimum, be able to find a solution that provides what they need, be it Safety & Security, Connection, Significance, Freedom, or Joy.
Because you have an important relationship and care for one another, your goal is to continue to seek solutions until you are both happy with your choices. Turn conflict into solution-focused problem-solving by adapting the proper mindset. The rest will fall into place.