In modern, fluid society, when toxic conflict corrodes relationships, we're often more likely to move on than to patch things up. But as we have become more specialized professionally, our worlds have shrunk. And as you move up in the organizational hierarchy, the number of places to which you can move declines. For many, moving on is no longer as easy as it once was.
Between people, coming to peace after heated, venomous disagreements is a valuable, if undervalued, skill. How can you come to peace if you're engaged in a long-running feud with another? Here are some suggestions.
- Have realistic expectations
- Sometimes we can't imagine ever getting back to comity, and even if you would like to, it might not be possible. But go as far as you can for today, and building on that, strive to go a little further tomorrow.
- Build on mutual respect
- Each party must find a way to respect the other. It isn't really peace if one side grovels while the other triumphs. Such a peace is just war continued by other means.
- Acknowledge what's happened
- You can't undo what's happened. Your experiences were real. Instead of denying the past, find ways to acknowledge the truth of what happened between you, as honestly as you can. Truth is essential to forward progress.
- Realize that Now is not Then
- Work together to find a path that works for Now. Agree that whatever happened in the past happened Then, and that it isn't happening Now.
- Consider your Self
- Whatever path you find has to fit for both of you, and one of you is your Self. Value your integrity and your sense of ethics. Trying to walk a path that you simply cannot walk doesn't work. Forge an agreement you can live with.
- Honor confidentiality
- Confidentiality between
the two of you can
provide a strong bond
- How the two of you work out your difficulties is your own business. Offer (and ask for) confidentiality if you need it. Confidentiality between the two of you can provide a strong bond that can be part of the basis for going forward together.
- Look for the amazing
- Find things you each can contribute to build a strong foundation for your new relationship. Use the amazing test: if you were a third party, and you somehow found out the terms of the new agreement, would you be amazed at its inventiveness and mutual generosity of spirit?
- Apply the durability test
- Try to build an enduring relationship. If you cannot imagine a peace enduring for a year on the basis you're about to agree to, it won't last. Make the foundation stronger.
Peace is more achievable if you both focus on what you can gain, both individually and together. On your own, maintaining that focus can be difficult. Consider the possibility of asking for help from a neutral third party. Top Next Issue
Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!
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More articles on Conflict Management:
- Dismissive Gestures: I
- Humans are nothing if not inventive. In the modern organization, where verbal insults are deprecated,
we've developed hundreds of ways to insult each other silently (or nearly so). Here's part one of a
catalog of non-verbal insults.
- Dealing with Rapid-Fire Attacks
- When a questioner repeatedly attacks someone within seconds of their starting to reply, complaining
to management about a pattern of abuse can work — if management understands abuse, and if management
wants deal with it. What if management is no help?
- Contextual Causes of Conflict: I
- When destructive conflict erupts, we usually hold responsible only the people directly involved. But
the choices of others, and general circumstances, can be the real causes of destructive conflict.
- Dealing with Deniable Intimidation
- Some people use intimidation so stealthily that only their targets recognize the behavior as abusive
or intimidating. Targets are often so frustrated, angered, and confused that they cannot find suitable
- On Assigning Responsibility for Creating Trouble
- When we assign responsibility for troubles that bedevil us, we often make mistakes. We can be misled
by language, stereotypes, and the assumptions we make about others.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 25: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VI
- Narcissistic behavior at work distorts decisions, disrupts relationships, and generates toxic conflict. These consequences limit the ability of the organization to achieve its goals. In this part of our series we examine the effects of exploiting others for personal ends. Available here and by RSS on April 25.
- And on May 2: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VII
- Narcissistic behavior at work prevents trusting relationships from developing. It also disrupts existing relationships, and generates toxic conflict. One class of behaviors that's especially threatening to relationships is disregard for the feelings of others. In this part of our series we examine the effects of that disregard. Available here and by RSS on May 2.
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