Resolving Conflicts Peacefully (Part 1)

Mutufally successful outscomes require self-discipline

Posted Mar 13, 2018

Katarzna Bialasiewicz/123RF
Source: Katarzna Bialasiewicz/123RF

 When two or more people gather, conflicts are inevitable. Conflicts typically consist of two components, facts and emotions. A factual argument analytically examines the main point of the argument. An emotional argument stands on pride and, in many cases, stubbornness. A successful argument addresses the facts and seeks a practical and mutually agreeable solution. Emotional arguments often leave the argument unresolved and destroy relationships and disrupt the workplace. Therefore, learning to effectively resolve conflict is essential to living a satisfying and stress-free life.

Don’t let others control your emotions

 When people argue, they deliberately poke and prod in an attempt to stir emotions. Emotional flareups redirect the argument from analyzing facts to evoking emotional responses, which are often irrational. You are in charge of your emotions. Do not let the person you are in conflict with control your emotions. When people become emotional, they do not think clearly. This gives the person you are in conflict with a distinct advantage. The person you are arguing with can now deliberately push your emotional buttons to force you to react in a certain way based on emotions and not facts. A fact is a fact. Facts have no emotions. People assign emotions to facts based on their past experiences and social norms. Force yourself to look at the facts in isolation without assigning emotions. The option is always available for you to make a choice to become emotional, but the choice is yours and yours alone.  

Stay focused on one topic at a time

 Address one topic at a time. People often include multiple factual topics in their arguments accompanied by several emotional arguments. If you are the person initiating the argument, present one topic at a time, resolve that topic, and then move on to the next topic. Do introduce anything that is not related to the targeted topic. Keep the person you are arguing with on the topic. Arguments usually get off track when emotion is introduced. For example, you approach a subordinate at work to let him know the report he wrote needs additional work. The subordinate immediately responds he has been overworked, unlike his colleagues, and has had little time to devote to doing anything right. The subordinate redirected the focus of the factual argument of a poorly written report to the emotional argument that you are not fairly assigning work, intimating that you are responsible for the poorly written report and not the subordinate. You now feel compelled to defend how you assign work. The subordinate is now attempting to control your emotions and thus avoiding the fact the report the subordinate prepared was poorly written. A better approach is to stay focused on the fact that the subordinate’s report was poorly written. A better reply to the subordinate’s response would be, “We can discuss how work is assigned at a later time. Right now, let’s focus on this report.” If the subordinate again tries to redirect the focus of the argument, you should repeat, “We can discuss (insert complaint) at a later time. Right now, let’s focus on this report.” Using this technique, the discussion remains focused on the targeted argument and you remain in control of your emotions and can resolve the argument peacefully.

 The same technique can be used in social situations. You are in an argument with a family member about elderly parental care. An issue arises. Your sibling demands that you resolve the issue. You hesitate. Your sibling replies, “I am the one who is always assisting our parents.” Your sibling redirected the factual argument to an emotional argument, intimating that you are not doing your fair share to help your parents. You, now, feel the need to defend yourself. Once this emotional cycle begins, you and your sibling are in a destructive downward spiral. A better response would be, “I appreciate what you did and I’m sure mom and dad also appreciate your help. Let’s focus on the current issue now and we can talk about how responsibilities are assigned at a later time.”

 This technique resolve arguments takes discipline but allows you to remain in control of your emotions and peacefully resolve one argument at a time. This technique only works when the participants of the argument have a sincere desire to resolve the argument peacefully. If the person you are arguing with is not sincere, you should disengage and try again at a later time to address the targeted argument.

For more tips and techniques to resolve arguments and disputes refer to The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over.