Follow the Fire–Confront Your Fear of Conflict

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When I tell people that my passion is getting in the middle of conflict and helping to constructively resolve it, I often get a look of amazement and invariably someone says “good for you , I could never do that.” Sometimes it isn’t easy, especially when the conflict is mine.  But when I remember to follow my own advice, the problem almost always comes to a constructive conclusion.  Here are some tips to follow.

  • Be centered even in the fire.
  • Ground yourself and remember that fighting fire with fire only leaves ashes.
  • Try to look at the situation objectively.  Imagine yourself stepping out of your body and just observing what is going on.  This little bit of distance might help you stay open and relaxed.
  • Become curious.  Cultivate an attitude of discovery.
  • Listen attentively, don’t interrupt except to acknowledge.
  • Suspend judgment not only of yourself but of the other person.

As an example of following the fire and effectively managing the situation, Kristen Barker of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Cincinnati, Ohio relates this experience at a Town Hall meeting about health care in her area:

“A few minutes into the town hall the heckling began. Our experiences were interesting. Originally, there were six people in the row behind me shouting such things as ‘Obamacare is going to kill you’ , ‘We have the best healthcare in the world’ , ‘Liars’, ‘Tort Reform’ , ‘I won’t pay for your healthcare’ and so on.

When the shouting became louder, more constant and distracting I made a decision that engaging them would probably be less distracting for the majority of people in the audience. I began turning around, periodically paraphrasing and periodically asking them questions such as ‘You sound really frightened about this healthcare reform possibility. What scares you . . .’

The woman immediately behind me said things like  ‘You are so naïve’, ‘you don’t have a brain cell in your head’, ‘We don’t even breathe the same air. I can’t talk to you.’  Others said angrily and insistently, ‘The show is in front. Turn around’.

I took a breath and kept at it. The mocking of me continued. Eventually, a man responded  to my question about what he wanted to see in terms of our health care. When I paraphrased his answer, he said ‘Exactly.’ His expression softened, he lowered his voice and stopped shouting.”

Learning  how to effectively manage the conflict in your life takes courage and practice.  If you’d like to work with an experienced conflict resolver on conflict that is particularly troubling  in your personal or work life, give me a call and ask about my services as a conflict coach.  I will teach you new skills and give you guidance as you practice.  Remember also that ACDRS has many training programs aimed at reducing and managing the level of conflict in the workplace.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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