I hope you found these 12 Steps to Conflict Resolution helpful. What I want you to remember is …
Conflict is like a leaking faucet. Left unfixed, it only gets worse.
Conflicts don’t just go away. They don’t melt away. They might go underground for awhile but they can result in bitterness and hurt and pain, and certainly broken relationships. At the very least, significant walls arise between you and other people — mentally, emotionally, even physically, and certainly relationally — so that there can’t be intimacy. And relationships ought to be intimate.
Remember what George Bernard Shaw once said — “In the right key, you can say anything, in the wrong key nothing. The delicate part of life is establishing the key.”
You want to be in right key when it comes to relationships. You want to be in the key of unity, oneness. Where things are flowing, where you’re enjoying one another, where you’re “iron sharpening iron.” You’re being synergistic. You’re having an impact — together — much more than you ever could alone because you understand the power of relationships, and you understand the power and skills for resolving conflicts.
Now you’ve seen these 12 Steps. I want you to review them here in the days to come. Remember:
- Learn to embrace and resolve conflicts. We tend to practice flight-or-fight. Instead embrace them. They’re not bad.
- Address your anger appropriately. Anger is not bad. It is a motivator. This is “Hey, there’s a problem!” A warning light. So deal with it the right way by responding not reacting.
- Seek understanding NOT victory. Don’t try to always win. Seek understanding.
- Assume the best. Don’t jump to conclusions; cut people some slack.
- Learn to share your feelings appropriately. It’s hard for me to do, probably for some of you, as well. Learn how to share your feelings appropriately. That’s where the issues are.
- Watch your tongue. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Remember the danger of the tongue.
- Speak the truth with kindness.
- Attack the problem, NOT the person. You can do that if you’re careful, particularly by using “I” statements not “YOU” statements.
- Deal with specifics, NOT generalizations. Don’t just talk general ideas. Be specific. Give examples.
- Seek and grant forgiveness. What a powerful thing that is, and hard to do, but you must.
- Deal with conflict personally. Go to the person. Don’t try to shame people. Don’t talk behind their back or do it publicly — at least don’t start there.
- Be gentle. Remember people are fragile. They’re like eggs, you’re walking on eggshells in a sense. We’re all very fragile.
So think of that wild stallion whose spirit is very much alive but whose will has been broken. Be submitted to these twelve steps when it comes to dealing with conflict.
Let me close with a story to show you the impact of this. I was sharing this with a large group of leaders from a big marketing group in Malaysia some years ago. And I went through these twelve steps with these mostly Islamic people of faith but it was in a business environment. And when we got done I had the speaker come up on stage and I said to him, “What do you think?” And he said, “Well — very helpful.”
I said, “Does it work for your folks?”
He goes, “Oh yeah. We’ve never learned to deal with conflict this way. In fact, we tend to run away from conflict or get very aggressive like you said. And resolving conflict is kind of a new concept. So this has been very helpful.”
“Did anything stand out?”
“Well, for me personally, yes, and that was seeking and granting forgiveness.”
I said, “Really.”
He said, “Yeah, in fact I need to ask for forgiveness now.”
He said. “Yeah!”
Now get the picture, we’re both up on stage. I had a mic, he had a mic. Hundreds of these top leaders were watching. And he turned to the number two guy in the group and he called out “Kemal!” And he said, “Kemal, when we started this business…”
And he was reading his notes on how to ask for forgiveness. Remember those four steps?
He said, “When we started the business, I stole some of your people. I was wrong.” (He paused to read his notes.) “And I am so sorry I stole some of your people. And that was a terrible thing to do and and I’m sorry.” (He paused again.) “I’m so sorry I did that and caused you embarrassment and hurt and frankly lack of funds. And respect and all those kinds of things, I’m so sorry for that.”
He said, “I’m going to work hard not to do it again.” (Pause to read.) “And I want you and everybody here to hold me accountable.”
And then he said, “Ron, I can’t read the fourth thing. So what do I do?”
I said, “You say, ‘Will you forgive me?’ and shut up.” So he looked at Kemal and said (in front of everybody), “Kemal, will you forgive me and shut up?”
I said “No no no! You don’t say ‘shut up!’ “You say, ‘Will you forgive me?’ and then YOU shut up.”
He goes, “Oh!” and they were laughing at that point. And then I said, “Hey Kemal, it’s on the table. You’ve been asked to forgive your brother here. What do you say?” And Kemal jumped up on the table and said, “Absolutely!”
Now this was from way back at the back of the room and you could tell in just a moment, like that, the spirit of that group changed because a leader had the humility to ask for forgiveness, in this case publicly. Think of it. He wasn’t driven particularly by his faith. This was new concept for him. He was just driven by “it was the right thing to do.” He was submitting to the principles. He saw the wisdom in them.
I hope you’ll do the same thing and see the power of these principles. If you find yourself grappling with which ones you need to work on, one of the things you could do is take it home to your family or colleagues and simply give them the list of the 12 steps. And say, “Which one of these is my greatest one and which one is my weakest?”
I was sharing this with a group of leaders in Florida some years ago with a colleague and this was the first time my colleague had heard it. We had a sheet with these 12 steps and I passed him one, he went through it, I presented it and then we went home. And he left his sheet on his desk. The next morning he woke up, turned over, and saw this sheet on his bed, with orange underlining certain steps with a little note on the side, that said, “Hey Dad, here’s a little note from your son!”
And what was underlined was Address your Anger, Be Kind, Speak the Truth with Kindness, and Be Gentle. His son was letting him know that he had some weaknesses, and called him out on them by underlining and even putting some exclamation marks by things that he needed to focus on.
I’d rather initiate this with my own my family and colleagues, which I’ve done over time, than have them surprise me with the list on my pillow in the morning! So I urge you to do the same thing.
If you can live your life in light of these principles you will start to see significant transformation in your relationships. From broken relationships to whole relationships. From hopeless relationships to healthy, healing relationships. And I look forward to hearing in the days to come how your lives are being changed. Let me know.
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.