Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 8, Issue 27;   July 2, 2008:

Peace's Pieces

by

Just as important as keeping the peace with your colleagues is making peace again when it has been broken by strife. Nations have peace treaties. People make up. Here are some tips for making up.

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.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Union of South Africa

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Union of South Africa. The TRC is widely regarded as having been responsible for guiding the nation along a path from truly toxic conflict to peace, following the end of Apartheid. The principles they created and followed have provided a model for truth commissions around the world. Person-to-person reconciliation is more intimate than national reconciliation, and in many ways, more complex, but the TRC model is still a valuable and inspiring guide. Read more about South Africa's reconciliation experience. Photo courtesy Mogale City, South Africa (Tutu's home town).

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. Go to top Top  Next issue: Approval Ploys  Next Issue

101 Tips for Managing Conflict 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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Related articles

More articles on Conflict Management:

James Madison, author of the Bill of RightsTeamwork Myths: Conflict
For many teams, conflict is uncomfortable or threatening. It's so unpleasant so often that many believe that all conflict is bad — that it must be avoided, stifled, or at least managed. This is a myth. Conflict, in its constructive forms, is essential to high performance.
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Preventing toxic conflict is a whole lot better than trying to untangle it once it starts. But to prevent toxic conflict, we must understand some basics of conflict, and why untangling toxic conflict can be so difficult.
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At times, groups can become so embroiled in destructive conflict that conventional conflict resolution becomes ineffective. How does this happen? What can we do about it?
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When we cannot resolve an issue in open debate, we sometimes try to explain the obstinacy of others. The explanations we favor can tell us more about ourselves than they do about others.
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Occasionally teams find that they must cooperate with another team despite strong misgivings. Because noncooperation isn't an option, they find covert ways to avoid cooperating. Here's a little catalog of techniques of Covert Inter-Team Noncooperation.

See also Conflict Management and Emotions at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Bottom: Aerial view of the Forth Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland. Top: Inside the Forth Rail Bridge, from a ScotRail 158 on August 22, 1999.Coming June 1: Mental Accounting and Technical Debt
In many organizations, technical debt has resisted efforts to control it. We've made important technical advances, but full control might require applying some results of the behavioral economics community, including a concept they call mental accounting. Available here and by RSS on June 1.
A goose and goslingsAnd on June 8: Flexible Queue Management
In meetings of 5-30 participants, managing the queue of contributors can be challenging. A strict first-in-first-out order can cause confusion and waste of time if important contributions are delayed. Some meetings need more flexible queue management. Available here and by RSS on June 8.

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The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power

Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

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