February 2005 - Conflict and Conflict Resolution
The 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 of 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.
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:
So, there are very few people who would never engage in conflict.
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 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.
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.
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.
4. If a person does not make a conscious choice to deal with the conflict often unconscious processes take over that may be undesirable.
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.
3. There may be an apparent conflict that masks a deeper one.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5. All the different parties’ assumptions must be identified and clarified.
6. The main barriers and obstacles to resolution must be identified and clarified.
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.
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.
Look for conflicts that arise within yourself.
Source: Power Path Seminars, August 2004 Newsletter. Copyright © 2004 José & Lena Stevens, used with permission of authors. www.thepowerpath.com
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