How to Avoid Conflict

Differing points of view can lead to conflict. We see that every day in small events in our personal lives to large global clashes. We are all brought up with different rules of engagement, particular to our home. How to navigate the differences in small encounters helps prevent the larger battles.

When I was a very young child I remember being told that I HAD to share…. even when I didn’t want to. Regardless of my own inclinations to hold onto my precious possessions, my parents knew best. So, sharing was the social requirement.

It was when my children were of a similar age that I realized that “having” comes before “sharing”. While eating dinner at a restaurant one evening (can’t really call it dining with a three-year-old tot in tow), my aunt and I were catching up on family news; my daughter, was flirting with the child in the booth behind us. As the neighbor child went reaching for my daughter’s new toy, my precious little girl loudly proclaimed, “MINE.”

That response was obviously contrary to southern etiquette required for properly raised children in my family. My aunt spoke up while I was still observing the wants of two youngsters vying for the object of desire. With a smile on her face, she insisted her niece share her toy, to which my lovely child, just as adamantly replied, “MINE”. Recognizing that this could quickly become a clash of wills with volume, I stepped up to the parenting plate.

“It’s okay,” I said to my youngster, “You don’t have to share.” Again, not a response common to the well bred according to accepted family protocols, my aunt being the reigning authority at the table. I could tell this not because I’d read that book of etiquette, but due to the mild shock on my aunt’s face and her flustering for words with which to offer me correction. But then, it’s also not the best of manners to dress-down your niece in a public venue, either.

I looked at my dear aunt and said what seemed plain to me, having lost my copy of the Rules for Contemporary Southern Propriety. Knowing my daughter to be a generous child, and watching her in her negotiations with her new acquaintance, I remarked, “She cannot share until she has an experience of it being hers, owning it. It’s so new, it’s not real to her yet, her bond is too fragile to risk breaking by letting it go. When she’s lived with it a bit, she’ll be able to offer it to others and still know it belongs to her. Just, not yet.”

Everyone calmed down. My aunt was reassured, my child was reassured and our little family concluded a successful mealtime experience in a public venue without taking center stage. Yippeeee!!!

Addressing differing points of view with thoughtful conversation often averts an unpleasant scene. Understanding one another and their experience can bring insight and compassion along with it. We need this skill these days. Listening is required.

  • Listen!
  • Assess the situation.
  • Determine the differences in point of view.
  • Acknowledge the point of view of the “other”-that doesn’t mean agreeing, simply recognition.
  • Share your position with a kind tone of voice. This can get tricky, but what a treat when you pull it off.
  • See if there is room for you to meet each other. This is where the conversation part comes in. Puzzle out common ground.
  • If tempers flare, take a break and re-convene the discussion when cooler heads prevail.

Over the past years, my parents’ rule of “having to share” has evolved. Working with people who hold different points of view (think couples, parents and children, bosses and employees) I’m moved to share what's worked in resolving disputes. This is not as proper etiquette or in compliance with family rules of order, but simply because I have it, have seen it aid in times of conflict and distress and am compelled by my desire to help.

Do you share? You have a point of view. Are you solid in your self-knowledge? Enough so, that you can share it without fear of loosing it?  Do you bite your tongue (sometimes appropriate) or gingerly wade into the conversation? What do you have that you’d like to share? Please leave a note in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Practice life. Evoke the best out of yourself.


Posted in acceptance, change, conflict resolution, coping with change, family relationships, flexibility, judgement, self-help on 10/24/2017 05:44 am

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