In conflict situations we have an innate approach to which we automatically revert; a habit, formed over years of experience and linked to our personality. Like an old shoe, it’s our style, is well worn, comfortable and much loved. Old shoes are moulded to us and therefore difficult to discard for new shoes. New shoes keep out the rain and protect our feet but we don’t like them: they are tough and hurtful because they are new, different and do not feel right….yet.
Compromise is bandied about quite often as the most effective approach to resolving conflict: ‘you just need to compromise’ and ‘it’s all about give and take’: advice often metered out to help people in difficult situations or new situations which might become stressful e.g., partnerships. I have always felt uneasy about compromise, it sits badly with me ( www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/get-yes-ditch-compromise-heres-how-crowley-ba-msc-dip-coaching). There is a small taste of bitterness in my mouth when I walk away having ‘given in’ no matter what the ‘take away’. I resent it somehow and later on, could be much later on, the conflict situation raises its ugly head again, because it is not resolved. I now believe that compromise is as destructive as avoidance and attack. In its place a different approach definitely works better, it’s called ‘surrender’:
*SURRENDER YOUR VIEW FOR SOMETHING NEW
When I first came across the surrender approach to conflict resolution I did not agree with it at all. I thought that surrender meant I had to give up my values or the principles upon which I had built my well-justified position. However, here’s the crux, it is holding onto our ‘well-justified’ position that leads to conflict with others or indeed to conflict within ourselves (that inner self-talk). When I surrendered the emotion around my position, a kind of release happened for me and a clarity. I found that I could engage with the other person more fully, and I immediately started to see their position and to empathise with it (not agree or change my position, just genuine empathy and a sincere understanding). What then happened was a new way forward opened up to both of us, one based on true understanding of each other’s perspectives. And the new way was better than either of us could imagine.
Surrendering my view took courage and faith, especially in myself. I did not feel threatened in any way by doing this. The relief was enormous: I immediately felt lighter and conflict dissolved. Surrendering my view helped me gain another perspective on my position, and I learned from the experience. Something wonderful happened on a number of occasions, the other person, upon sensing my surrender, also surrendered and came towards my position, I was not expecting that, but what a bonus!
Try out the surrender approach to conflict resolution for yourself, see how surprisingly good it feels, how open you now feel towards the other person with whom you are in conflict, you never know, when you do this, you might just find a more effective solution. It definitely works better than accommodating them or attacking them, or avoiding them, or giving in. What it definitely is, is a step towards understanding and enlightenment (and lowers the old heart beat, so an added health benefit there!).
Try this new shoe, see how it fits, bear with the pain of breaking it in, like all habits it takes time, persistence and forgiveness to adopt, but it will be worth it.
(*Note: many thanks to Brian McGeogh – PSM, Dublin – for this concept, taken gratefully from one of his excellent training workshops on conflict resolution many years ago)
Anne Marie Crowley BA MSc Dip.Coaching, based in Cork Ireland, is a free-lance Coach and Trainer in the field of behavioural change for individuals and business