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spike bullet February 2005 - Conflict and Conflict Resolution

The Nature of Conflict and Managing It Effectively
The Seven Levels of Connectedness
The Seven Levels of Conflict
The Personality Overleaves and Conflict
The Nature of Conflict
Resolving Conflict
Exercises
Resources (links, books, articles, humor)

color bulletThe Nature of Conflict and Managing It Effectively

by José & Lena Stevens

Let us begin this discussion with a quick review of the fourteen levels of interaction among humans ranging between unconditional love to total annihilation.  These represent the levels oftwo men shaking hands development as humans strive to raise themselves from total savagery to high sentience.  In order to accomplish this feat each human being must negotiate the slippery slope of conflict and its resolution in order to discover connectedness.

After the outline of the levels comes a brief description of roles, overleaves and stages of maturity (Perspectives), and how they interact with conflict.

Following that comes a more extensive discussion of the nature of conflict itself.  Suffice it to say, there is more to conflict than most people imagine.  Learning about its nuances can greatly accelerate the process of growth and development on this planet.

The Seven Levels of Connectedness

  1. Nurturing — Survival of species. 
  2. Alliance — Obligation to family, tribe clan. Duty.
  3. Reciprocity — Love for nation, religion, company, goodwill on strength of mutuality.
  4. Appreciation — Seek out others of different cultures, seek out diversity, be of service.
  5. Comprehension — Interaction, intense involvement to seek truth.
  6. Altruism — Fellowship, compassion for human condition, large perspective-inclusive.
  7. Agape — Unconditional love.

The Seven Levels of Conflict

  1. Disagreement — Not personal. Need to define points of conflict, define goal. Resolve conflicts based on mutuality of goal.
  2. Aggravation — Prolonged competition, grudges between individuals. Need to define what it would take to end it. Some form of payment.
  3. Civil Dispute — Indirect contact formalized by courts. Need compensation. Vengeance.
  4. Criminal Dispute — Social insult is recognized by whole community. Community represented as in class action suits for criminal behavior. Need compensation and consequences.
  5. Regional Dispute — Beyond courts, no solution in law or social structures; society involved as in feuds; people not connected at first are drawn in. Need symbolic figures to end dispute, ritual or sacrifice, Lord Jim.
  6. War — Great impact on society and land that goes into future for generations; goes beyond responsible parties; lasting repercussions. Need diplomatic negotiation.
  7. Annihilation — Oops!

THE OVERLEAVES AND CONFLICT

Within the personality, there are many variables that either help to support or resolve conflicts with much of the focus on overleaves and soul age.  Bear in mind that all overleaves are designed to be experienced and mastered in various combinations.  There are no right and wrong ones.

The Dragons, however, will always be a problem where conflict is concerned.  They will never help so they should be expunged.  On the other hand, there is a great deal to learn from resolving conflict using any combination of overleaves.

There are those who learn to use Aggression Mode to resolve rather than inflame conflict.  Bear in mind that there are certain life situations that call for conflict and that Aggression Mode or Dominance can actually be a plus in the forming of a conflict.

For example, a group of people may be chronically oppressed until a civil rights attorney with Dominance and Aggression takes up their cause and wages a legal fight all the way to the Supreme Court to have justice served.

Overleaves that make it easier to enter into conflict:

Overleaves that tend to restrict or resolve conflict:

  • Roles of Artisan, Server and Scholar
  • Goals of Acceptance, Submission, Re-evaluation and Relaxation
  • Attitudes of Idealist, Spiritualist and Stoic
  • None of the dragons
  • Modes of Caution, Reserve and Observation
  • Perspectives of Relating/Partnership-oriented and Teaching/Philosophically-orientedHowever, if pushed, they will fight.

So, there are very few people who would never engage in conflict.

SPECIAL MENTION

Of all the seven Roles, Warriors have the greatest tendency to engage in conflict because they are designed for it.  At the least, they love to argue and at the worst they engage in coercion, both conflict oriented activities.  Since Warriors are dominant on this planet — comprising one-fourth of the population — this world is a conflict-oriented place indeed.

Added to this tendency is the fact that humans are independently mobile in addition to having opposable thumbs.  This gives them the option of taking their conflicts to stronger levels of engagement.  This is what has contributed to the world being so war prone and such a dangerous place for so many thousands of years.

All this does not make the Warrior role negative in any way.  They are also highly productive, organized and focused, good at handling and resolving conflicts both internally and externally.  This is especially true as they mature and take on more peaceful overleaves.

Scholars are designed to be a neutralizing force.  They are prone to study all sides of a conflict and to be good judges for arbitration and mediation purposes.

They do not like conflict and avoid it whenever possible unless they have aggressive overleaves.  Nevertheless, they find themselves in the middle of conflict on a regular basis because they are called upon to mediate and judge when others have failed.

THE NATURE OF CONFLICT

The Perspectives of Relating and Teaching often shy away from conflicts and consider themselves to be a kind of personal failure when conflicts come up as they inevitably do.

However, conflicts and disputes are a natural part of the human experience and should not be considered undesirable or a sign of failure.  Every time we are faced with a dilemma or have two minds about something, we are in conflict with ourselves.  That is part of the choice making process and a part of learning.

To choose between chocolate and vanilla is a minor internal conflict as is the decision whether to use the elevator or the stairs.  On the other hand, trying to decide between colleges or jobs or whether to stay in a marriage is a much more challenging internal conflict.

Sometimes conflicts are unavoidable and can be extremely difficult as in trying to decide whether to bail out of a disabled plane or steer it away from a town and certainly die in the process.  So, conflict is part of life as it clearly is when it comes up between individuals, groups or nations. One side wants one outcome and the other wants a different outcome.

Conflict then is not the obstacle but rather it is the way the conflict is handled that determines its value as an obstacle or a challenge.

Scholars, Artisans, some people with the of Relating and Teaching Perspectives, Idealists and people with Goals of Acceptance often make a career out of avoiding conflicts and the results are not necessarily good.

When someone always tries to avoid conflict, several things are likely to happen:

1.  They miss out on valuable opportunities for growth in resolving the conflict.

One cannot become proficient at resolving conflict by avoiding it.  Only by facing it — head on — does one learn to handle it well.

Ted and Susan, a couple married for three years, were struggling to preserve their relationship.  

When Susan, a Warrior, confronted Ted about his sloppy habits leaving his clothes all over the floor, Ted, an Artisan, would walk out of the room pissing Susan off to no end.

Eventually they hardly talked and the relationship was on the rocks.

Unfortunately, this scenario is not rare.

2.  They often make the conflict worse in the long run by postponing it or allowing it to build. The scenario above illustrates this result as well.

3.  They are resisting and postponing the inevitable because many agreements and resolutions to karma involve conflict.

Scott had an agreement to help his friend Mike resolve a bad financial decision but in order to do so he would have to confront Mike and challenge his bad judgment.

Because he was conflict averse, Scott was not able to complete this important agreement.

4.  If a person does not make a conscious choice to deal with the conflict often unconscious processes take over that may be undesirable.

Betsy was upset with her roommate Rhonda for not paying her rent on time.

However, Betsy hated conflict so she did not say anything to Rhonda.

Nevertheless, her resentment came out in indirect ways like not giving her phone messages in a timely manner and not leaving her any coffee in the coffeepot.

The result was an icy stalemate.man and women with their backs to each other

Conflict may arise between people for a variety of reasons:

1.  There is an actual disagreement between two parties that is just plain hard to resolve.

2.  There is an assumption that leads to bad blood but may not be based on any fact whatsoever.

For example, Jane may believe that Mary was slandering her behind her back when Mary did nothing of the kind.  Mary feels Jane’s wrath but has no idea what the conflict is about.

3.  There may be an apparent conflict that masks a deeper one.

Fred is apparently angry at his boss for denying him a day off.  Actually, he is angry about a bad report that his boss gave him three months ago.

Only by examining the assumptions and feelings in the conflict can the parties determine if there are grounds for a real conflict or not. 

Typically, there are three possible levels of reaction in a difficult conflict:man and woman not communicating

Someone initiates an action that another person does not agree with or does not like.  The first reaction usually includes some forms of hurt, fear and shame whether or not they are justified.

After talking with vendors, Nancy, the office manager, decides that the office will adopt a new word processing software package.  

The staff is hurt that she did not consult with them to see if it would fit their needs and they fear that the new software will be difficult to use.

When Jeff, a staff member, made a comment to Nancy questioning the need for the new software,  Nancy was abrupt and simply said, "You’ll get used to it soon enough."

Jeff felt humiliated in front of his peers.

If these reactions are not addressed or resolved fairly quickly, the next level of reaction comes into play — anger, aggression or in some cases, passive-aggression.

The staff became angry with Nancy and not only talked behind her back but failed to show up at meetings on time.

They made a point of ignoring her in the snack room and no one included her in lunch plans. Nancy was hurt and after a time became angry as well.

If these reactions are not dealt with, the third level of reaction comes into play —retaliation, revenge and retribution depending of course on the maturity level of those involved.  While older souls usually do not permit themselves to indulge in level three reactions, younger souls fall into it readily.

Jeff, the one who was most humiliated by Nancy, decided to get her back by sabotaging the whole software system so that it would not work and would make Nancy look bad to the owners, possibly jeopardizing her job.

Meanwhile Nancy was compiling evidence that would allow her to fire certain members of the staff for insubordination as soon as the opportunity afforded.

The office was at war over this.

As you can see, this is an example of a conflict escalating because no party is dealing with the emotions along the way.

Unfortunately, it is an unbearably common and yet unnecessary occurrence.

In general, the rule is that the sooner the emotional content is honestly revealed and addressed the sooner the conflict can be resolved.  The Perspectives of Surviving, Rule-Making and Competing are quite averse to this because they see the revelation of emotions as weakness when they are striving to win or to protect themselves.

The longer the emotions are allowed to fester and move to the next level of intensity, the harder it is to resolve the conflict.

When conflicts reach the third stage of Vengeance, it is very difficult to resolve them without courts, bloodshed or force of arms.

Of course, prevention is the best way to deal with conflict altogether.  Good frequent communication, regular times to air grievances and early intervention are all preventative measures.

Anger is the most frequent emotion involved in conflict.  Important to realize is that anger almost always comes from disappointed expectations.  People expect to be treated fairly, expect that nothing bad should happen to them, expect that others will always look out for their best interests and so on.

For example, when someone goes to the market to shop, they expect they will get there safely and that their car will be safe in the parking lot.

When someone runs into their car, they are hurt.  

Shock and victimization quickly turns to anger and eventually they may start to think of retaliation through the courts and so on.

In general, the more conscious a person is in the face of conflict, the better.

Conscious responses are better than unconscious or subconscious responses because of the brain areas involved.

A conscious decision comes from the cortex where good judgment, learned behaviors and the thinking through process happen.

A subconscious response comes from the limbic part of the brain or the reptilian brain that governs fight or flight, impulsive behaviors, and instinctive reactions.  That is from where karmic responses usually generate.  

Sometimes it is difficult to get those with the Perspectives of Surviving, Rule-making and Competing to use their cortex, especially when anger is already involved, so it is critical that those with the Perspectives of Relating and Teaching — wise in the ways of conflict — be around to help manage the peace process.

Resolving Conflict

To resolve conflict, these steps are very helpful:

1.  All parties have to show up and be heard in full but not be allowed to dominate the discussion.

2.  All sides need to listen without breaking in.

3.  There may be many elements and contributing factors.  These must all be identified and separated out.  This is especially true when there are past insults, multiple parties associated with the conflict, and complicated circumstances. 

"Remember that meeting we had a year ago when you said our department was not contributing anything."

4.  Especially important is to clarify the various emotions being held by the parties and to identify how these emotions evolved to their present form.

"At first, I was hurt but then I got angry and outraged."

5.  All the different parties’ assumptions must be identified and clarified.

"I thought you hated me. I thought you were aligned with so and so."

6.  The main barriers and obstacles to resolution must be identified and clarified.

"We won’t negotiate until the jobs are reinstated."

7.  Scenario building: Everyone must contribute possible solutions and clarify where this solution is likely to lead.

    There should also be a scenario for failed negotiations.  What will happen if we fail?

8.  The next step is to begin agreeing on some strategy that takes the best of the scenarios posted.

9.  The next step is negotiation and compromise.  Of utmost importance is to have everyone in attendance at the table who can do something about the problem.  Peace processes often break down because the people present cannot enforce the solution strategy.

10.  Put all agreements in a written contract with agreed upon consequences if the agreement is violated.man and woman talking and drinking coffee by coffee pot

11.  There needs to be periodic reviews about how the process is going and whether any new emotions are building up.

12.  The final step is to handle any new conflicts that may be starting up before they get going.

EXERCISES

Look for conflicts that arise within yourself.

  • Should I visit the relatives or not?
  • Should I stay with this relationship?
  • Should I stay with this job?
  • Should I tell so and so what I really feel?
  • Are there any emotions that stack up on either side of the argument within?
  • Are there any assumptions you are basing these emotions on?
  • Is there a way to check out the assumptions first?
  • What are you taking personally?
  • Is there a way to process that out so it is no longer a personal issue?
  • Are there some communications that would eliminate the conflict you are having with yourself over what to do?

Exercise:

  • Follow this same process for a conflict that may be arising between you and another person.
  • Follow the twelve steps above for resolving conflict

Source: Power Path Seminars, August 2004 Newsletter.  Copyright © 2004 José & LenaPowerPath Seminars logo Stevens, used with permission of authors. www.thepowerpath.com  

World Wide Web graphic  Internet Resources

book graphic  Books

  • Coward's Guide to Conflict: Empowering Solutions for Those Who Would Rather Run Than Fight.  Tim Ursiny.  Sourcebooks, 2003 ISBN: 1402200552
  • The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution: Preserving Relationships at Work, at Home, and in the Community.  Dudley Weeks.   Jeremy P. Tarcher; Reprint edition, 1994.  ISBN: 0874777518
  • Resolving Conflicts at Work: A Complete Guide for Everyone on the Job.  Kenneth Cloke, Joan Goldsmith, Kenneth Cloke, Joan Goldsmith.  Jossey-Bass; New Ed edition, 2001.  ISBN: 0787954810
  • Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most.  Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen, Roger Fisher.  Penguin Putnam, 2000.  ISBN: 014028852X

world wide web - articles  Articles

Related newsletter articles :
    The Personality Game - related articles
    Conflict Resolution Techniques - February 2003: Agree and Disagree in Peace
    Stress: How It Affects The Roles We Play - May 2002
    Conflict Resolution: Winning Without War - October 2004
    Resolving Interpersonal Conflicts - August 2002
    Basic Human Needs - June 1997
    Expanding Your Personal Power - May 1998

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side  

 

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