Role of Conflict LO9698
Mon, 2 Sep 1996 12:23:57 -0700 (PDT)


Thanks for keeping me on my toes regarding the statement that the conflict
is with the situation, not the people. I agree with you that you cannot
completely separate the people from the situation. It's helpful in our
assessment of a conflict, though, to separate the people from behaviors
and influcencing factors. We often have a tendency to want to
oversimplify our understanding of a conflict and look for someone to
blame. I tell my son that he is never bad. Every once in a while the
things he does may be bad, but he as a person is always good.

The same is true of all conflicts. The people are not inherently bad.
Their prejudice, poor judgment, alcoholism, understanding of a situation,
emotional reaction rather than careful response, chemical imbalance,
learned bahaviors, and a whole bunch of other influencing factors may be
problematic, but the people aren't bad. And each of those factors, to me,
are part of the *situation*. They may influence the behavior of the
person, but they definitely are not the person. Once I can separate the
behaviors and influencing factors from the person, I'm able to deal with
the person more compassionately and with a more fair assessment of the
situation rather than an unfair judgment of the person.

In our workshops we teach about four main areas of security and how if one
or more of them becomes threatened we engage in conflict. The greater the
threat, the more likely we are to engage in negative conflict rather than
objectively and constructively resolve it.

For example, a couple gets a bigger tax return than they'd expected. The
husband wants to replace the garage door, and the wife wants to spend the
money on a week-end getaway. The husband says that the garage door looks
terrible with that big gash in it, and he's tired of driving up to a
trashed house. The wife says they should spend the money on quality time
with each other, and anyway, the gash is barely noticeable. The husband
says how embarrassed he was when his boss drove him home last week and saw
the gash and half-jokingly commented, "Too much to drink last night?" The
wife says it's not my fault your boss is a jerk. The husband says he
shouldn't have to take the heat for her bad driving. The wife says maybe
he should take the heat for his bad mechanics instead, and that if he
hadn't worked on the car and accidently disconnected the rear lights she
wouldn't have accidentally backed into the garage door in the dark that
night. The husband says if you took better care of your car I wouldn't
have to work on it at all. And so it escalates, each trying to get what
they want, blaming the other, and denying any responsibility themselves.

Each of the people in this conflict isn't "bad," but their behavior
encourages bad results. If you look at what each wants, and doesn't want
you can see that their intentions have more to do with security than
hurting the other. Obviously, the problem isn't in the bad intentions of
one or both parties, but in their understanding of the entire situation
how to deal with it. Wife wants: time with each other to strengthen their
relationship Husband wants: a good home and family he can be proud of Wife
doesn't want: husband to think less of her for hitting the garage door
Husband doesn't want: wife to think less of him for making a mistake
fixing her car; boss to think less of him for having a trashed house

In trying to avoid what each doesn't want, they attack each other, not
looking at the entire situation but trying to blame the other person and
avoid blame themselves. If they can compassionately recognize which of
the four areas feels threatened, and if they can understand which
behaviors encourage negative conflict, and apply cooperative strategies to
encourage positive resolution (this is ties into the martial arts aspect
of our workshops)they can move any conflict away from personal attacks and
toward understanding and resolution of the situation. This of course
creates positive outcomes, better relationships, and a safer atmosphere
for addressing future conflicts.

Sorry I wasn't clear before (my own tendency to oversimplify). I hope
that explains it a little better.


Larry Bowman said:
>Jill, I"m confused.
>I don't understand how you can have conflict with the situation, not with
>people. I understand what you say in recognizing conflict there is an
>opporunity to learn, from how I contributed to the situation, how I react
>to the situation, and what I will do different now that I recognize the
>conflict and my role in its creation.

>It feels if I separate the person from the situation (as you state below),
>I also remove that individual or group from their role in creating the
>conflict. While I can work on my attitude toward the situation, focusing
>on the situation (rather than people) seems to encourage what you called
>unfortunate (ignore, pretend, exaggerate).

>My assertion is that the people create the situation, and if in that
>situation there is conflict, it is a reflection of the peoples intention to
>be in conflict. If I as a person choose cooperation over conflict, my
>results will reflect that, and I will have cooperative situations, not
>conflict one. If there is conflict in the situation, I should consider my
>role, and be open to the 1% possibility I really wanted conflict (that's
>what I produced). Subsequently, the results reflect personal intentions,
>I should work on my relationship with the people, to learn from the
>conflict and execute behaviors that would create cooperation.

>Help me understand how a conflict situation does not reflect the intentions
>of the people involved, that if I am in conflict with a situation, show me
>how I am not in conflict with the people.

Jill Johnson and Associates, Inc.
Specializing in The Conflict Dojo:
Conflict Management Training based on the
ancient teachings of the martial arts
12932 SE 272 ST, #242 Kent, WA 98031 USA
206-639-0776 fax


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