During the holiday season many of us spend time with family or friends. Inevitably at some gathering the conversation may shift to religion, politics or some old grievance. Maybe things get a bit heated, the conversation get’s a bit loud and next thing you know voices are raised and old “bad” feelings come to the surface.
Conflict resolution techniques differ from culture to culture. For example, the Dutch are generally very direct as are the Germans whereas the Swedish and Swiss tend to be the most conflict avoident. In the USA, conflict resolution experts tend to be affiliative and conflict avoidant until we until they lose patience and then conflict management becomes aggressive and disrespectful where the person is often seen as the problem.
Effective conflict management is respectful, direct, and whenever possible, not personal. Any problem that is to have a solution must initially be explored as distinct from the person. More often than not conflicts are cultural. People have ways of being learned in the family, at school, in an organization, or in a culture. In the end, culture is a significant factor in understanding how to deal with conflict.
In order to have effective conflict resolution there are a number of factors that must be present :
• All involved must see the value of everyone benefiting. In a zero sum game the only resolution available is someone winning and someone losing.
• Reciprocal altruism must be the end game for all the players. If there is no ingrained sense of “community” no matter how small it may be, then there will be no benefit to be gained from cooperation, even a cooperation that is step by step (tit-for-tat)
• When there is an ingrained sense of “community” the importance collaboration, of working with others, and giving other support when needed become obvious to all.
Game based thinking (treating the situation like a game with players, rules of engagement, a playing field and strategies etc.) is extremely important in interactive environments where there is some sense of community. This is because it gives all the players involved, no matter how adversarial they may be at the time the sense that they have some control of the environment (a game space) in which they are all interacting. In complex and extreme situations where an individual or group has lost control of an environment the initial reaction is extreme fear. If a person is able to transcend this and bring clarity of thought to the forefront than the survival mechanism will soon become dominant. At this time the thinking process shifts to ones adversary or to the game space. Thoughts will then focus on what the individual who is presenting a threat wants or needs. I often use Abraham Maslow’s concept of the hierarchy of needs to explore what this might be. If one’s adversary is unreasonable one’s thoughts may shift on how to change game space to reduce that threat. If one’s adversary is rational and reasonable one can shift thinking from competition to collaboration. This allows thoughts of curiosity, compassion and acceptance. Now by motivating a person who was adversarial or authoritative to communicate their concerns and by listening to them and asking questions the person in the subservient position may be able to create a connection and rapport (an emotional bond).
The key is to focus on the adversary or authoritative individuals and not on oneself. If ever held hostage and you cannot escape. If one seems to have no power or influence in a situation it is best to ask questions, adapt and show compassion – understanding for the motivation of the authoritative, finding a way to engage in a dialogue and avoid focusing on yourself. It is important to go with the flow rather than being resistant or rebellious.
On the deepest and most profound level you are using your “Inner wisdom” often called the “mind’s eye” to focus on the positive and transform negative transactions into positive transactions with an emphasis on hope.
P.S. If you enjoy movie comedies about the holiday’s, families fighting, dysfunctional behavior and salty language I highly recommend “The Ref”. Lilia and I are going to watch it again. It’s about a “cat burglar” played by Dennis Leary who is, confronted by a dog and a quarreling couple and ends up being their family therapist…of sorts You can watch it after you see Ground Hog Day again! Here’s the film trailer for “The Ref” .
Click below to observe a nine minute video interview Lewis did with the Award winning journalist Phyllis Haynes on why people suffer:
Lewis Harrison is the author of sixteen books including
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I have been contacted by many people who have studied with me over the last four decades. Many have an interest in my current ideas on personal development and human potential. These notes are being organized into a series of books titled the”Teachings of Lewis Harrison” of which Volume One is “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Times.
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