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Managing Conflict--"I'm All Wet and Can't Seem to Get Dried Out!"


Like the weather, conflict can be anything from a minor squall to a turbulent storm packing hurricane force winds. Quite often conflict storms come up unexpectedly and we are not prepared with an U-M-B-R-E-L-L-A (See Dealing With Difficult People—Go Ahead, Rain On My Parade). Here are some additional tips to handle unanticipated and surprising conflict tempests that are not part of typical interpersonal relationship weather patterns.

Before The Storm

Batten down the hatches to keep from drowning in stormy relationship seas. Many common expressions have nautical origins. The expression “batten down the hatches” is no exception. In times past, when a severe storm approached, British sailors would cover the “hatches” or openings in the deck of a ship with tarpaulins and secure them with “battens” to keep water from flooding the ship. These pieces of strong wood would fit against the raised rims of the hatchways and pin the tarpaulins down drum tight.

To “batten down the hatches” on stormy relationship seas:

  • Take action before the storm approaches by proactively developing, nurturing and enhancing the variety of your interactions with others.

  • Consider utilizing the following “battens”: constancy, dependability, loyalty, reliability, and trustworthiness.

Deploy Your Doppler Radar. Doppler radar is a key weather forecasting tool that can detect approaching storms before they develop into full force hurricanes, tornados or severe thunderstorms. It shows pictures of wind motions in storms which allow scientists and weather forecasters to predict a storm’s arrival and intensity.

To deploy your Doppler radar:

  • Be alert to early warning signals and hidden clues that a conflict storm is brewing.

  • Don’t ignore these signals—even the minor ones.

  • If you see a conflict storm brewing and you don’t know where it is coming from, take time to figure out what has caused it to develop.

When the Storm Hits

Assess and Evaluate. Determine if it is a conflict squall which starts out with big gusts of wind and heavy rain, then fizzles out at a moment’s notice; or is it a category five hurricane which can linger for hours or days and cause irreparable damage. Evaluate your role in the conflict.

  • How have you contributed to the conflict?

  • What actions have you taken in the past or what things have you left undone which have given rise to the conflict?

Seek Shelter…Quickly! It can get rough out there—especially if you do not see a conflict storm coming! If it is the conflict storm of the century:

  • Don’t react; instead control your impulses and force your mind and body to relax and be at peace.

  • If you are in the midst of an in-your-face confrontation, take a break and remove yourself physically until calmer emotions prevail.

  • When discussion resumes, practice actively listening to the other party and demonstrating empathy (putting yourself in his/her shoes).

  • If you are unable to resolve the conflict, consider engaging a neutral third party to help you uncover the issues and develop solutions.

After The Storm

Survey the Damage. Review and inspect the conflict storm’s toll and impact. Consider the following:

  • Has the relationship changed in any way; is it better or worse?

  • Were your issues, position, and interests addressed?

  • Did you achieve a mutually acceptable resolution?

Execute Disaster Recovery & Clean-Up. To survive, thrive and emerge from the conflict stronger than ever, you must adjust your attitude.

  • Restore. Find ways to restore peace and harmony in the relationship. Deal with any unresolved anger, loss or depression.

  • Reconcile. Ask for forgiveness and willingly offer it.

  • Rebuild. Pick up the relationship pieces and patch up any breaches that may have occurred. To minimize the reoccurrence of conflict disasters, actively seek to build a stronger relationship than you had before.

So if you don’t like conflict thunderstorms or have been in one for a long time, stay warm and dry by battening down interpersonal relationship hatches, deploying your conflict Dopplar radar, seeking shelter quickly, and executing recovery efforts in the event of a conflict disaster.

About the Author

Althea DeBrule, entrepreneur & seasoned human resources executive, has helped people achieve their career goals for more than 30 years. She is recognized for her bottom line and practical application of career transition & development strategies in a way that compels action. To discover how Althea can help you take your career to a new level, visit http://www.extreme-career-makeover.com/


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