Step 9 – Deal with Specifics Not Generalizations

By Dr. Ron Jenson

How do you feel if someone simply says to you, “I have a problem with you,” but won’t tell you why more precisely.

The principle I want to talk about here, the ninth step in the 12 Steps of Conflict Resolution, is to Deal with Specifics not Generalizations.

I don’t know if there’s anything more frustrating and more debilitating in resolving conflicts than to be general and not specific! I want to urge you to be specific. Don’t say, “I just don’t like you. You’re just always doing things wrong.” Say, “Let me give you a specific example of an issue we’re dealing with right now.” Try to be precise; don’t try to cover the waterfront. Deal with the precise issue. 

And by the way, remember those bricks that cause conflict and separation over time? Each conflict you need to resolve is a specific brick. Deal with the specific not a generalization. 

I was speaking one time to a large group of college students. Afterwards many students came up and said a lot of nice things to me, and then one guy said,

“Dr. Jenson, can I talk to you for a moment?” I said, “Sure.”

And he said, “I don’t like you.”

“Well that’s interesting,” I said, “I’m sure you’re one of many. What about me don’t you like?”

And he thought about it for a few seconds, and said, “Everything.”

“Could you narrow down a little bit more?”

And he thought about it for a few seconds more and said, “I got it.”

I said, “Well, good. What is it?”

He said, “It’s your personality.”

I said, “What is it about my personality?”

He said, “It’s just the whole thing.”

I said, “Well, thank you so much that is so helpful. The only way I can deal with that is to put my lips around an exhaust pipe and suck. Total annihilation is the only way I can deal with resolving your issue with me and my personality.”

His comments weren’t helpful at all. That was frustrating to me. I can handle criticism but I sure like it to get as specific as possible. So I can understand it and deal with it. Others are like that. You’re like that, too.

So be sure in this particular step that you deal with specifics. Don’t just deal with generalizations. And watch how that helps you in resolving conflict.

And please share your comments, questions and insights below. Finally, if this is helpful for you, please pass it on to your friends and family via email or social media.