Conflicts are unavoidable, it is how we deal with them that matters. In the past week we have witnessed conflicts pertaining to the Royal Family. Needless to say, while the royal conflicts played out on television and YouTube screens, simply because of the enormity of their family profile, millions of other similarly deep family conflicts have gone on within the same time-frame but outside of the glare of the world and its media.
Prince William, speaking to a cross-section of Bradford Community on Wednesday said it’s okay for us to have these challenges, we just need to deal with them and we do need to move forward rather than be stuck in paralysis and pretend the problem is not there and this is what inspired this blog, so thanks your Royal Highness.
Recipe for success
I believe four ingredients need to be present in conflict resolution, a base of honesty seasoned with humility and served with a garnish of respect and honour for each other.
Now that we have the ingredients what is the process to complete this recipe? You can tell, can’t you, that I watched a bit of Saturday Morning kitchen and am literally sat in from of Mary Berry’s Best Home Cook as I type! So here we go:
Sit down to consider how and what YOU might have done wrong
It is easy to absolve ourselves of all blame and shift it to the other person. A while ago, I was having a chat to someone whose marriage had collapsed. The most shocking thing they said to me was that they did absolutely nothing wrong and had no blame in the marriage ending. They said “…one minute we were planning on buying our first house together, the next minute I was being told that the marriage was over.” As far as I was concerned, my conversation with them about that particular issue was at an end at that point. There was no merit in going further. We did engage in other conversations, at end of which they may have realised we usually have a part to play when things go wrong, it cannot all be the other person’s fault.
One thing I constantly did wrong was brought to my attention one day, when in my younger days, an even younger colleague ‘crossed the line’ and I flipped, in front of customers and every other colleague present. I seriously went mad. We were called into the manager’s office where both the General Manager and the Assistant Manager asked us both for our side of the story (a very wise conflict resolution approach that works all the time!), while he claims innocence and that I was just a raging mad lunatic, who went for him for no reason, I had a bucket load of offences for him and I made the managers realise he had pushed me too far! The managers stood there with their jaws to the floor. The Assistant Manager, very calmly, in a monotone, said, “Ayo, you must never wait until someone pushed you right to the wall before you act. In the least, always give at least three warnings before it gets to this stage.” Having heard that, I realised the ugly scene of that day was in the majority – my fault. I had allowed the situation to get out of hand, my colleague was just being his teenage self. I saw him as constantly rude, disrespectful, immature, petulant and needed to attend a gruesome, intensive Character Bootcamp before he should even be allowed to put one foot into any place of work. The truth was, had I myself taken a little bit more matured approach to the matter it might not have caused the ugly scene it did. I was not reprimanded in any way; I was actually made to understand how valuable my contribution to the organisation was (another wise move on my Managers’ part). My colleague was also not given a marching order but was made to understand that his actions do have impact on other people and that he needed to pay more attention to that. Problem solved.
Perhaps you may consider whether some deep-seated bitterness is at the heart of your manner of interaction with the other person, bitterness that they or completely different people have caused you.
Accept all the areas where you have done wrong
Resolving the conflict is not just about accepting to yourself that you have done wrong, but also accepting to the other person that you indeed did wrong to them in that specific matter. Doing this doesn’t in any way label you as a “wrong‘un” (a person whose whole personality or existence is wrong) nor should it be used as a determinant of any other blame apportioning.
We live in a world where we are always cautioned against admitting ‘liability’; you could invalidate an insurance policy if you do. Even some bad (and wrong) leadership teachings directly or indirectly warn leaders about being honest when they have made mistakes. The old saying used to be “Honesty is the best policy”, now a days we hear “Honesty is not always the best policy” and when you have admitted to being wrong and been beaten over the head for it, you clam up next time you are in the wrong. I am however a strong believer in a timely and appropriate acceptance of liability – it has never failed to work for me, whether in a personal or professional situation. We have seen over recent years, how lack of honestly has in fact impacted negatively on the perception of leaders and leadership.
It appears honesty in the times we live in takes boldness. I was on a leadership course where I was told about the Leadership of Self and all I had to do was be bold and courageous and do some daring things I had never done before. I gained greater level of confidence and courage from it.
Being courageously honest in this way is important because:
- It brings honesty back into the relationship and honesty build trust. It will always generate a sense of knowing and understanding better, the person you are in a relationship with as well as understanding and knowing yourself better. No one is perfect and understanding each other’s strength and weaknesses helps in setting expectations and finding the right way to deal with inevitable conflicts.
- There is a humility in accepting to the other person that you have done wrong and if I flip that on its side it means a level of ego and arrogance is removed from your interaction with that person. Ego or arrogance is like a dryness between two mechanical components of a machine that are designed to work together, it causes friction, heat, and wear between them. A dose of humility with the genuine aim of making things right is like the lubricating oil that helps the two components work together again more smoothly.
- Honesty earns you some of your lost credibility. Let’s face it when we hurt people, we lose credibility and traction with them. Honesty buys us some of that back.
- It honours the other person and this again builds trust and also facilitates a spirit of rapport (unless they have self-esteem issues)
- Once you find out what it is you have done wrong and admit to it, you actually strip that negative mindset or behaviour of its hold and power over you. When I admitted to myself and the people around me that I did bottle issues up, there was a sense of freedom that I felt in not needing to do it again.
Work towards walking a better path in future
There is no need going through all that honesty process and continue in the old behaviour – that is simply taking liberty for licence!
When you find what you are doing wrong and admit to it, you must also work to ensure you serve the negative mindset and behaviour an eviction notice and enforce the notice. It may take time to work through them but starting and committing to working through them completes the honesty circle.
Treading a better path for the future involves moving forward with mutual respect and honour as you continue to work through any issues and make the bold and courageous, even if sometimes challenging and difficult, commitment to change – knowing better and doing better.