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:
- Recalcitrant Collaborators
- Much of the work we do happens outside the context of a team. We collaborate with people in other departments,
other divisions, and other companies. When these collaborators are reluctant, resistive, or recalcitrant,
what can we do?
- What Do You Need?
- When working issues jointly with others, especially with one other, we sometimes hear, "What do
you need to make this work?" Your answers can doom your effort — or make it a smashing success.
- How Workplace Bullies Use OODA: I
- Workplace bullies who succeed in carrying on their activities over a long period of time rely on more
than mere intimidation to escape prosecution. They proactively shape their environments to make them
safe for bullying. The OODA model gives us insights into how they accomplish this.
- Workplace Bullying and Workplace Conflict: I
- Bullying is unlike other forms of toxic conflict. That's why the tools we use to address toxic conflict
simply do not work for bullying. In this Part I, we contrast bullying and ordinary toxic conflict.
- First Aid for Wounded Conversations
- Groups that meet regularly sometimes develop patterns of tense conversations that become obstacles to
forward progress. Here are some ideas for releasing the tension.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 17: Overt Belligerence in Meetings
- Some meetings lose their way in vain attempts to mollify a belligerent participant who simply will not be mollified. Here's one scenario that fits this pattern. Available here and by RSS on October 17.
- And on October 24: Conversation Irritants: I
- Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous. But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection of their techniques. Available here and by RSS on October 24.
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