I will admit to having a somewhat unusual interest in methods of conflict resolution and its instruments. It is a fascination that started in college but has grown throughout my personal and professional life.
I have a somewhat eclectic background and as a result have had the ability to observe and employ many different methods. For example, in politics we’d drop a press release to diffuse a situation, in business a meeting would suffice, and when I was a Marine… well, we know how they resolve conflict.
The study of how to manage conflict goes back eons and is principally the same no matter where you look. Whether a Dale Carnegie writing or the Bible, there are certain fundamental elements to draw upon. For example: do not devalue what another person is saying or take an aggressive tone or their defences will go up and communication will become difficult. Furthermore, when addressing someone or making a request use their name and acknowledge the specifics of the request.
These are two very generalized examples, but conflict resolution is also something I am working very hard to teach my children. These fundamentals of communication will help them throughout life.
Unfortunately, though, we seem to be stuck at this scenario of conflict management:
Level 1 – the request is made: “Give me the Batman.”
Level 2 – the counter-offer: “No.” Conflict officially begins.
Level 3 – in an escalating volume: “Give me the Batman!!”
Level 4 – mediation: “Dad, Liam keeps telling me what to do!”
Level 5 – tears: somebody has been punched.
While we’re working at making this scenario end differently, I can’t really be too rough on them when their disputes take this turn. After all, raising your voice and refusing to communicate is pretty commonplace. Think I’m joking? Turn on any news channel. I watched a Senate confirmation hearing on CSPAN not long ago and witnessed this exchange:
Level 1 – the request is made: “Answer the question.”
Level 2 – the counter-offer: “I do not see how that is relevant.” Conflict officially begins.
Level 3 – in an escalating volume: “Answer the question!”
Level 4 – mediation: “Mr. Chairman, the Senator wants me to answer an irrelevant question!”
Level 5 – tears: somebody has been indicted.
Maybe I’m asking a lot of my kids by expecting them to behave with more maturity than U.S. Senators sometimes do, but we’ve got to start somewhere and I can’t ground the Senate.
Chris Donnelly is married with four children. You can read him every Thursday on momaha.com
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