Some relationships and homes are a mess, the result of conflict.
When in the heat of conflict, most arguments get cast in an all-or-nothing debate. Something is totally one way or the other, leaving little room for compromise, let alone understanding.
Resolving conflict shouldn’t result in a winner and loser though. Conflicts that end with winners and losers tend to create ongoing animosity and resentment. As a result, the loser may look to discharge their resentment through retaliation on another issue. So, while one may have won a battle, the war continues.
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True resolution leaves both people feeling intact, and that the outcome was fair and balanced. To achieve a balanced resolution, one has to have a good appreciation for the views and interests of the other. This requires perspective-taking. To take the perspective of the other, curiosity helps.
You can ask the other person to help you understand where they are coming from, why their views are so important, and what it is they truly wished you would appreciate. Very often when in conflict, we assume we know what is going on for the other and ascribe negative views about what we have assumed. We hold to our views based on our negative assumptions. But, if you can suspend your own assumptions and truly try to understand the issues of the other, that person feels better heard, even if you both still disagree on an issue. This opens up dialogue – which is necessary for generating alternative solutions.
To release oneself from an all-or-nothing viewpoint or resolution, it is important to generate a number of solutions, more than the one or two currently in dispute. Through generating multiple solutions, more creative opportunities often emerge. One strategy for making this happen is to stop saying no and instead say “yes, and”. Perhaps by accepting the solution of the other, you can at the same time add on something that can meet your interests too, thus allowing you both to move forward.
If however, tensions remain so high that perspective-taking and generating alternate solutions cannot happen, then it is time to bring in a neutral third party. Referred to as a mediator, this person has no stake in the outcome, and is only there to facilitate a respectful dialogue. Mediation is best achieved if neither party places pre-conditions on the actual process, and everyone who is party to the conflict participates.