Friday, April 29, 2016

Conflict Resolution

I think everyone could learn a thing or two about conflict resolution. In a typical Punjabi or Hindi film we see people hitting each other, yelling, and life-or-death situations due to conflicts (sometimes these are not too far off from reality!), so they don't usually model a good way for us to solve our conflicts. Here are some tips that I’ve found useful. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments. 

Setting
It’s important to have a neutral setting where you can talk about it. Usually its better to be able to have a back and forth conversation about it. If you write a letter for example, the words may not be perceived as you had intended and then the other person doesn’t get a chance to share their side.

Take some time to think about it first
Often times when a conflict arises, we tend to react immediately and say things that we later regret because they came from a place of pain or anger or other strong emotions. Taking a step back and processing the information is fine. It allows you to have some time to think. In the heat of the moment we have many thoughts ping-ponging in our mind and I find it helpful to write down those thoughts and then figure out how they are connected to the feelings. That gives you time to put some thought into what you will say to the other person.

Good communication
A lot of conflict comes from miscommunication and misunderstanding and the inability of people to simply sit down and listen to another person’s perspective. It takes a lot of patience, but it’s important to have all the information before coming to a solution or understanding. So I believe the first and most important thing in conflict management, no matter how small or big the conflict, is good communication. That involves active listening, not cutting people off, and making sure you understand for example by paraphrasing what the person has said and asking if that’s accurate. It’s usually nice to set up some ground rules, for example "let the other person talk without interrupting" and then having a pen and paper to write what you need to remember when you respond. Also, good communication is in body language and the way you speak. Remember to lower your voice because yelling doesn't help get the point across any better, it just escalated the conflict. 

The other person
When speaking try to focus on how the actions of the other person have affected you rather than making statements about the person. Making a statement such as “You are like this”, especially with the modifiers- “always” or “never", just adds to the conflict. Talk instead about how you feel about the incident/action.  There is a great youtube video (see references below) about this. If you understand hindi and have a half hour to spare, it’s worth it. It’s part of a series called Being Bliss, in this episode Sister Shivani uses the example of a computer that falls down to explain the difference between telling someone “what you did was wrong” vs. “you always do things wrong!” and the damage it does.

Mediators
In some situations its useful to have a neutral third party to mediate the conflict and ensure that it stays on task and the ground rules are being followed.

Follow-up
After a solution is discussed, the conversation isn’t over. Sometimes what happens is the “big discussion” is over and then small little things build up again until it’s ready to explode. It’s good to keep having continual discussions after the conflict to ensure things are on track and you are on the same page so that doesn’t happen.

References:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUyf5g48VtE (the video I was talking about above) 
http://www.mediate.com/articles/bermanlj3.cfm

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