Susan Shearouse on Five Conflict-Dissolving Goals This Fall

Susan ShearouseThe following is a guest post by Susan H. Shearouse, author of Conflict 101, on resolutions to make this fall on solving problems and clashes with others.

Maybe it’s all those years of school – the Tuesday after Labor Day always feels like New Year’s Day to me. Time to put away the summer fun and get back to work. No more leaving early on Friday afternoon. All those meetings and groups we canceled until September are back on the schedule.

And with every New Year, we make our lists of Resolutions. Sometimes they go down easier if we think of them as Goals. When I set Resolutions, I don’t expect them to last long. Goals, on the other hand, we can keep working on, striving for. If we fall down, we can get up gracefully and give it another go.

The word “Conflict” usually strikes fear in our hearts. When it’s something that matters, it feels like there is a lot to fear:

  • We fear change and the loss that change might bring.
  • We fear making a mistake and being seen as incompetent, weak, or unworthy.
  • We fear ‘losing face’ – losing our reputation or our pride, honor, dignity.
  • We fear being hurt. And we fear hurting someone else.
  • We fear what the conflict might say about the other person, or about current our relationship.
  • We fear being disrespected or dismissed; we fear being embarrassed.
  • We fear losing control; we fear feeling powerless.

In the middle of those fears, we lose sight of what resolving the conflict can do. Getting to the other side of a conflict can strengthen relationships, give everyone some valuable lessons, create new processes and answers that no one thought were possible before. Here are a few resolutions – er, goals – for you to apply to the conflicts that are bound to be waiting around the corner before you are putting the pumpkin on the porch for Halloween.

  1. Try something new. If you usually walk away when the conversation begins to get tense, stay in the discussion. If your habit is to make unilateral demands and statements, pull yourself back. Resist the urge get back to that comfortable place you know so well.
  2. Listen. Be curious. Reflect back to the other person what you heard, and let them confirm that you got it right before you respond.
  3. Take a moment. Suggest that you come back and discuss this further at a later time – maybe after lunch or tomorrow morning. It will give both of you a little time to think about what you really want and care about.
  4. Pay attention to the relationship when you are NOT disagreeing. Demonstrate concern and interest in the other person. Build trust by keeping your word and valuing others’ competence. Where trust is high, people can work through virtually any difference. Where there is no trust, the simplest disputes are difficult to resolve.
  5. As Gloria Steinem once said, “The bible says the truth shall set you free, but first it’s going to really (tick) you off.” Conflict – disagreement – is inevitable. Step into the moment with courage, and you may find some real treasures there.

Cover Image of Conflict 101
Susan H. Shearouse is the author of Conflict 101: A Manager’s Guide to Resolving Problems So Everyone Can Get Back to Work. She has a Masters Degree in Conflict Resolution and served as Executive Director of the National Conference on Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution. Her clients have included Lockheed Martin, Philip Morris, the IRS, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and many others.

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