Slowing Down and Reflecting on Conflict

Posted on December 7th, 2011 by Craig Runde

                 Conflict can become very chaotic.  Emotions run high, facts are slippery, and communications can stop.  When tensions are running high and things feel like they are spinning out of control, the best thing to do is STOP.  While we might feel compelled to talk louder to make our point, it is exactly in these confusing, upsetting times that it is best to take a time out to cool down and get a better sense of what is happening before proceeding.

Cooling Down

                The Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP)behavior of Delay Responding focuses on the emotional side of slowing things down.  When a person is feeling upset it is easy to default into using destructive behaviors.  This is the time to take a break and use the time to calm down before proceeding.  A number of techniques like centering, cognitive reappraisal, and mindfulness can be used to help cool down and regain emotional balance.  When negative emotions subside it becomes easier to explore what is happening in the conflict.

Reflection

                The CDP also uses a constructive behavior known as reflective thinking to address conflict.  This involves considering the pros and cons of different approaches to conflict.  In the Becoming Conflict Competent (BCC) course, this is approach is accomplished by determining who is involved in the conflict, how they view the situation, how the parties related to one another, and what the interests are of each of the parties.  Unless the interests of all of the parties are being acknowledged and counted, it is very difficult to develop effective resolutions.

                Reflection also includes enhancing self-awareness about how we are experiencing a conflict.  The Center’s Becoming Conflict Competent course uses a process called the Information Wheel®,  developed by Dr. Sherod Miller, to help participants better understand what is happening in a conflict.  This includes reflecting on what they have been doing in the conflict, what they have seen or heard,  how they have been thought about the conflict, what emotions they have experienced, and what they want out of the conflict for themselves and others. 

                When working with participants we find that they are usually able to describe what actions they have been taking in the conflict.  They can also do a good job describing what they have seen or heard and how they have interpreted it.

                They often have more difficulty describing their emotions.  The CDP behavior of Expressing Emotions suggests that this is a constructive approach, but people feel intimidated to do so.  Yet, conflict is all about emotions so reflecting on the feelings one has can add valuable understanding about why we may be behaving in certain ways.

                Most people are able to describe what they want for themselves in a conflict.  It is much more difficult to decide what, if anything, they might want for the other person.  Yet, we find when people are able to want something for the other person that they want for themselves, it can help lead to breakthroughs.  Hence, the Platinum Rule of Conflict Management is: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”

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