I think it is a fair statement to say, “Everyone wants to get along.” Yet, it seems we find ourselves in conflict with others from time to time. So, what do we do to get back to the peace we all desire? Might I suggest, approaching conflict with a peacemaker’s mentality. You might not be a person of faith, but the Bible gives some pretty good instruction in this area. Romans 12:18 reads, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Now that’s a pretty large undertaking to live out; especially in dealing with people who are not as interested in being at peace.
One this for certain, if you are going to attempt at being a “peacemaker,” it will require intentionality and a few ideas along the way. It will also require understanding, empathy, courage, and a steadfastness to resolve the conflict at hand. The following ideas are by no means exhaustive, but can be a launch point for your efforts.
Usually conflict in relationships, either personal or professional, result from one or both parties feeling hurt in some way. If this the case, be the first to apologize. Swallow some pride and don’t wait on the other party to apologize. This will give opportunity for the other party to respond in like manner. Apologies do not come with explanations. Using “but” or “because” after an apology is not much of an apology and does not give you the right to lay out your case. A sincere apology is one where you own up, take responsibility for the words you said or action you have taken. In the same breath, only apologize if you have something to apologize for. Apologizing just for the sake of rendering peace does not promote resolution, but it could foster codependent lifestyles.
Sometimes promoting peace does not deal with conflict, but rather unresolved issues. This is where intentionality and courage come into play. If issues go unresolved for long periods of time, they will fester and eventually come to the surface larger than they were at conception. In any relationship, personal or professional, meet your issues with the other person head on and deal with them the best way possible. When you meet issues head on, it gives the parties involved to work together as a team to develop meaningful solutions to achieve the peace both desire. It also helps to be empathetic to the other persons situation and their past circumstances.
Regardless of the situation, communication plays a vital role in achieving peace. In times of stress and anger, words will be said but may not be heard or understood. For example, with elevated heart rates men develop substantial hearing loss. The male brain begins to secrete hormones associated with the natural fight of flight process, thus limiting their ability to hear. Self-preservation supersedes hearing. Studies have shown when you communicate by speaking the truth in love, the point is generally better received. Techniques such as bookending a complaint with two compliments can be beneficial. Research also shows for every harsh comment it will take five positive comments to regain sociable communication pattern. However, sometimes it may just be better to bite your tongue. If your desire is to keep and restore peace, it might be better to leave things unsaid. Think about three points when thinking about what to say: Is what I’m about say true? Is what I’m about to say serve a purpose? Does what I’m about to say encourage or edify the other person? Unless you can answer yes to all three, what you want to say may be better unsaid.
Finally, if you are at an impasse, and a peaceful resolution seems unattainable, look to an outside source for help. A trusted friend, a mutual and neutral party, a pastor, coach, or counselor may serve to be beneficial to helping you solve the issue at hand. With an extra set of eyes focusing on the points of conflict, chances are a team effort will establish strategies to achieve the desired peace both parties desire.
If you have been around the block a time or two, you’ve undoubtedly experienced conflict in your relationships. Whether it’s in a personal relationship with your significant other, or a professional one with a co-worker or boss, conflict will raise its ugly head from time to time. How do we successfully deal with conflict and move back to the harmony we all desire? One key aspect to handling conflict is to approach it in a spirit of empathy. By definition, empathy is the identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives. It doesn’t mean you agree their point of view; just that you are willing to walk in their shows for a moment in time. When you approach conflict with a spirit of empathy several things will occur that will empower you to move toward a resolution.
The first thing that occurs when practicing empathy is you see things from a different point of view. When you refuse to operate in defense mode, you objectively see things from the other person’s perspective. Again, you don’t necessarily have to agree with perspective, but with an objective and open mind, you can see other solutions to the conflict at hand.
The second thing that happens when operating with empathy is it allows you to understand the other person’s feelings. During conflict, emotions can run hot and it may be difficult to manage your own feelings. With an empathetic spirit, you are better able to keep your feelings in check, and in turn, identify and understand the other person’s feelings. The understanding of the other person’s feelings helps to create an emotionally safe environment and can help both of you see the big picture.
A third benefit in practicing empathy is helps you to understand the other person’s motivations. In the heat of conflict our ability to think clearly is diminished and we can make assumptions about the other person’s motivation. We mistakenly assume their motivation is self-serving and not in our best interest. Although you might disagree with the other person’s motivation, it does not mean they are trying to harm you. The empathetic spirit allows you to step outside your own assumptions and see the picture more clearly.
Still a fourth benefit to practicing empathy is it keeps the conflict at hand from creating irreversible damage. Without empathy, the smallest disagreement has the possibility to escalate into a full scale blow out. Full scale arguments can lead to hurtful words being said and regretful actions taken. By being intentionally empathetic, and objectively mindful of the other person, the anger levels will remain manageable. Empathy simply removes the fuel needed for the explosion to occur.
A final benefit to practicing empathy is becomes second nature to your personality. This practice will help reduce the number and frequency of conflicting events. While conflict in life, either in personal relationships or professional ones is inevitable, practicing empathy toward one another could help you to avoid unnecessary arguments in the future. When you do have conflicts or disagreements, you’ll be less likely to let them escalate into world war three.