Conflict Mismanagement

School is quickly nearing its end.

I have learned so much, not only about the more technical aspects of communication, but also about people. Specifically the people here. Myself included.

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Poor communication is not just a problem for those who don’t take time to learn about it, it is a problem for everyone. People who are ‘professional communicators’ also struggle to communicate well within their personal relationships…

Having lived at Warm Beach Camp for the better part of 8 years I became pretty used to the personality quirks and places of conflict within that community. I did not assume I would find perfection here in Colorado Springs, but I also had no idea what I would find. I am extremely grateful that while I am coming to really love the people here, I am also seeing places of struggle. Knowing these things about people informs me about how to love them and also teaches me a lot about where I need to grow.

What I have learned about relationships in the last year is that I do not have to be afraid of conflict.

No, really.

My natural tendency within a relationship where there is friction is to either avoid the things that activate the friction, avoid the person or seek to make myself different, even if that means accepting unhealthy or damaging behavior. None of these responses lead to deeper, healthier relationships!! Surprise!

But what is left?! What else can I do!?

Here are two things I attempt to practice.
1. Love the ‘offender’… or the person I have offended. Do anything I can to see things the way they see them and have a real desire for them to know that I love them even while I am expressing upset feelings… or even when they are expressing their frustration with how I have acted.
2. Step back from my feelings. Not to ignore them or invalidate them. Feelings have their place, but that place is not in the center of a personality conflict. If I can step back from my feelings- or set them down- while I engage in the issue, then I am much less likely to react to the other person and much more likely to stick with the plan of loving them.

So. If you and I get in a fight? Feel free to call me on this if I am not practicing what I have just said. “Peggy! Do you love me!?” (go ahead and shout it) “Peggy, are you letting your feelings cloud your view?”
I dare you! 🙂

But be prepared that I may ask you the same questions.

8 thoughts on “Conflict Mismanagement”

  1. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve always felt that when you and I have conflict, we’re pretty healthy about it. Well, frankly, we’re both pretty childish in the middle of it, but later I feel like we said what we needed to say in the moment–however ridiculous–and we don’t hold anything against each other and we move on with our lives. Yeah?

    I find it surprising, and maybe I shouldn’t, at how inept I am at really communicating the thing I want to communicate when I’m upset and/or mad, although that also depends on with whom I’m angry.

    While grammatically correct, that last sentence is incredibly awkward, isn’t it?

    1. First of all, the book Crucial Conversations http://www.vitalsmarts.com/crucialconversations_book.aspx is really helpful in this area of being inept at communicating when upset. This has a lot to do with actual chemicals that surge through a persons body when they encounter conflict.

      I think that the way you and I have handled conflict together is rare. Rare in the world and rare for both of us outside of our relationship 🙂 Remember how we used to just be ridiculous to the point of comical? That was actually so healthy for getting the big feelings expressed without hurting each other.
      I think part of it has to do with how much we respect each other. Almost always I have no doubts about your motives… so when you piss me off it’s not this building up or exploding back log of tiny offenses… it’s usually something we deal with quickly and it’s usually totally superficial.
      Another piece is that I know I can be totally honest with you. All the time. And you’re going to love me no matter how stupid or selfish I may be acting. So I don’t worry as much about how to phrase stuff. If we misunderstand we don’t stew- we just go “Hey, what the heck are you talking about right now?”

      I think your awkward sentence could have been made less awkward by ending it at ‘mad’ and restarting the next sentence with “that”.

      Also? I love you. I want to schedule a for real photo shoot for you guys when I’m home because the pictures I got at Jessica’s wedding are sub par.

      1. I think that last argument we got into was a little ridiculous. I mean… I know I was pretty childish until I cooled down enough to talk in a rational manner! 🙂

        A photo shoot would be the Awesome.

        And? I love you too.

  2. I feel as if I am walking into a private conversation between two sisters spewing fake wisdom as I comment on this post. I too am a peacemaker and have many techniques (most of which are highly effective in the short term) for minimize, avoid, redirect and insert into a situation where conflict exists. This little bag of tricks are generally used when I decide that the painful disagreement, conflict or even blatant aggression occurs and I happen to find myself involved somehow. I don’t usually don’t like conflict and I usually can see what is really going on. For some reason I also can see what is needed by those involved to defuse the situation in the short term so I can feel good about not experiencing the confrontation either directly or vicariously. However I believe conflict is usually caused by either emotions getting in the middle of understanding the other(s) perspective and quite often the one in the defensive position really has nothing to do with the conflict. The offensive person (in the case of two people conflicting about one thing or another) is driven by a thing that has absolutely nothing to do with the person in the defensive position. When I find myself in the defensive position my natural response is “fight or flight”. For me the fight and flight are very similar – that’s what the bag of tricks are for. It is not difficult to ease the immediate conflict but long term nothing changes or even worse the conflict is strengthened. At least I don’t have to deal with it and can often convince myself I’ve done a good job of helping to resolve the situation. Actually what I’ve done is cleverly shifted the focus so I don’t have to deal with the actual confrontation.

    Your post has led me on a Web search for insightful quotes that address the shortcomings of this approach. Chaos theory, butterfly effect (not the movie) and domino effect are all terms that describe the potential negative consequences of NOT having an honest, loving discussion about the circumstances that surround the conflict. Those circumstances almost always exist in layers. The first layer is the place where my little tricks do the job. The underlying issue is where the real problems exist and the tricks do nothing to address this.

    So who should I quote among all the quotes I found on the Web? Maybe Dolly Parton: “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” – she seems to be saying that it’s important to be out there in the rain to get to the beauty of it all.

    I also found an interesting idea about a nail and losing it all:

    For Want of a Nail

    For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
    For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
    For want of a horse the rider was lost.
    For want of a rider the battle was lost.
    For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
    And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

    It sounds like you are doing the hard thing. That is really talking with those who have conflict. I think those who have conflict are called “human beings”. I also suspect that conflict is largely a misunderstanding – lack of communication, lack of love and lots of ego.

    I read somewhere that: “Jesus ate with tax collectors and other “sinners,” forgave the woman caught in adultery and promised paradise to the criminal on the cross next to him. Jesus received all who wanted to come.” He was hanging with those that certainly have experienced conflict, misunderstanding and judgment.

    That’s a hard thing to do – why even get involved? Why ask the hard questions? And how do I do this in a loving way when I can barely stand being in the same room as the offensive party? (or am I the offensive party by choosing to trick them into chilling out, convincing myself I’ve handled the situation and helped everyone and move on without dealing with the real issues?)

    I think one good reason for asking these hard questions, trying to do it with love and really being present rather than leaving is because the consequences of not really working through it may lead – probably will lead to more conflict, more pain and the ripple effect may result in far reaching places I cannot even imagine. The decision to stay and work through the stuff the underlies the conflict is much bigger than my 10 or 10 days of discomfort that results from actually addressing it.

    Love: I believe this can be communicated and demonstrated in a way that does not require consensus only compassion and an open heart.

    Feelings: They are important and require attention. They also do not require action only attention. The immediate feeling toward the tax collector who wants to take what little money I have is anger. Setting aside the immediate reaction – which is the feeling – lets me understand that the tax collector is doing their job. This person may only want to earn their paycheck and feed their family. Surely there is some common ground.

    What if the ground is not common? What if the fundamental beliefs at the core of the conflict cannot be resolved without one party compromising their fundamental values? I think compassion might have a place here. I don’t think that all disagreements or conflicts are can be resolved but there can be peace.

    So all this web searching – a few quotes and slight disclosure is what I have to contribute here. I don’t have any ultimate solutions for all conflicts. I do know that with more love and compassion inserted into conflict will reduce pain and suffering.

    Thank you for your post. It is pretty cool that you are learning stuff far outside the formal classroom and I’m grateful that you are sharing your insights and learnings in a public way that leads people like me to think more about the peacemaker bag of tricks strategies vs. hanging in there and working through it the best we can knowing that the ultimate example has already been provided. I wish it was easier at times.

    1. As always, my friend… thank you…
      I love this line.. “Your post has led me on a Web search for insightful quotes that address the shortcomings of this approach”. You are a good man and a great friend.

      I also have a “bag of tricks”… That’s usually the part where I bend myself to the situation or the person in conflict so that there is the illusion of peace. I spent long enough doing this (in certain areas) that sometimes I don’t actually know what I want or what I think.

      I also wish it were easier. It’s nice to have people to help…. people outside of the situation who can see a little more clearly.

      Also, this is good, “trying to do it with love and really being present..” Being present in conflict! Wow. Hard. I find it so difficult to speak what’s on my mind when I think that the other person is going to be angered by what’s on my mind… that’s why the ‘setting feelings down’ in the middle of conflict helps. I don’t have to pretend I don’t have feelings (as if I could) but I also don’t have to beat someone up with them OR let them be even more battered by the other persons anger.

      Yeah. So thank you for the part you play and thank you for your comment.

  3. Peggy, this is an amazing post! We handle conflicts in many of the same, uneffective ways! It’s one of the reasons that I have been having a hard time this week… Because I feel that I have to bend to another opinion to keep the peace – and if someone else bends to my opinion, I feel guilty about it. I’m really coming to realize so many of the broken areas of how I handle relationships. It’s painful, and raw, and vulnerable, but God is totally using this to help me grow and change… When I don’t know something is broken, I can’t seek healing.
    As always, I love you and I really value your thoughts.

    1. Thank you, Kayla! I’m so glad that you are not just discovering vulnerable places, but also that God is growing and healing you.
      I love that.
      I love you…. a ridiculous amount.
      I would also love to have another phone date with you. Will you be free anytime Thursday through Sunday?

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