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:
- When You're the Target of a Bully
- Workplace bullies are probably the organization's most expensive employees. They reduce the effectiveness
not only of their targets, but also of bystanders and of the organization as a whole. What can you do
if you become a target?
- Deniable Intimidation
- Some people achieve or maintain power by intimidating others in deniable ways. Too often, when intimidators
succeed, their success rests in part on our unwillingness to resist, or on our lack of skill. By understanding
their tactics, and by preparing responses, we can deter intimidators.
- Impasses in Group Decision Making: IV
- Some impasses that develop in group decision making relate to the substance of the discussion. Some
are not substantive, but still present serious obstacles. What can we do about nonsubstantive impasses?
- Historical Debates at Work
- One obstacle to high performance in teams is the historical debate — arguing about who said what
and when, or who agreed to what and when. Here are suggestions for ending and preventing historical debates.
- Much of what we call backstabbing is actually just straightforward attack — nasty, unethical,
even evil, but not backstabbing. What is backstabbing?
See also Conflict Management and Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 14: Pseudo-Collaborations
- Most workplace collaborations produce results of value. But some collaborations — pseudo-collaborations — are inherently incapable of producing value, due to performance management systems, or lack of authority, or lack of access to information. Available here and by RSS on June 14.
- And on June 21: Asking Burning Questions
- When we suddenly realize that an important question needs answering, directly asking that question in a meeting might not be an effective way to focus the attention of the group. There are risks. Fortunately, there are also ways to manage those risks. Available here and by RSS on June 21.
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