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Humbling the Conflict Intervener – A Reflection

Posted on Apr 08 2016 under Blog Posts

mirror-1138098_1920The other day I mentioned in passing to a co-worker that my husband and I had a disagreement. She looked shocked and said, ” I didn’t think you and your husband fought, because of your degree in conflict management.” This scenario isn’t the first time I have received a shocked reaction from someone who knows of my degree. The truth is, I am excellent at assisting others in managing their conflicts, but my own can be a little more difficult.

I will provide you with an example of a recent dispute between my husband and me and my reflection after. Bernard, my husband and I have an adorable and ornery puppy named Alvin, who is seven months old. Bernard and I have different beliefs on how to discipline Alvin when he is acting up. Last Friday, Alvin began behaving badly, and Bernard disciplined “his way” without consulting me first. I immediately became furious and started yelling, because that is my knee-jerk reaction when in the heat of a conflict. When I yell, Bernard shuts down and refuses to speak on the subject unless we can talk about it calmly.

I was emotional, so all rational thinking went out the window. I couldn’t gain perspective because I was entirely too entrenched in the situation. I am also stubborn, so I was holding onto my feelings and beliefs very tightly. We moved on from the situation Friday night without a resolution because I could feel myself getting angry all over again every time I thought about the topic.

So yesterday, I reflected on the dispute so that I could pinpoint what I was feeling and thinking and then determine what a solution would be to move forward.

I asked myself first, ” What is really bothering me?”

It wasn’t that Bernard disciplined Alvin his way though I disagreed with his method. It was that he did it without discussing it with me first. I felt that I didn’t have a voice or that my opinion didn’t matter. I also felt that by him just going ahead and disciplining Alvin his way, he expected me just to go along with it.

I then asked myself, “What did I do poorly in this conflict?”

I think it is always important to take responsibility for your contribution in any disagreement you might have. I didn’t recognize my triggers or realize that I was getting more mad. I yelled, which is when the conflict stalled because I couldn’t talk calmly. I also was so worked up the rest of the weekend that it further prolonged the conflict. I was stubborn and even once I recognized the real issues I still had too much pride to give in and discuss them with Bernard.

Lastly, I asked myself “What could I do to move forward with this conflict and what could I do better next time?

I sent Bernard a text message, which I know may not be the best and most mature forum. However, I have found that sometimes having the ability to edit what I say is helpful. I explained my feelings and expressed my issues, and we planned to discuss the situation more when we see each other face -to- face. Next time, I think it is important for me to walk away from Bernard for a little bit so that I can compose my thoughts and my emotions. I also believe that it would be helpful for me to write down my thoughts and feelings in my journal or on the dry erase boards we keep in our kitchen, just so that I can see it rather than keeping it in my head.

I am not a perfect person, and just because I went to school for Conflict Management certainly does not mean I won’t be involved with disputes. It is important when in conflict to reflect, recognize your triggers and set goals to do differently next time.

Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management
Apprentice


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