It’s Monday!! This picture was taken at our engagement party nearly 13 years ago. Not much has changed except the color of Adam Anderson’s hair. 

It seems a little ridiculous that I’m this excited to talk about conflict.  I’m still riding the continuing education high. I’m a much better student now that I can take whatever class I want and not be forced to take arbitrary nonsense.  

I’m fully geeking out on the conflict resolution and mediation training we just in NY.  

I actually worked as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital for awhile and I wish this type of basic information had been available to us for clinical education and interactions with patients, but also for staff on staff interactions.  

So here’s the gist: Conflict is a condition between people who are task interdependent, AND where one or both feel angry, AND find fault with the other, AND use behaviors that cause a problem.  

In our training, the problem was specifically a business problem, but conflict can happen anywhere and the equation to solve is still the same.  For our purposes we’ll frame everything for personal relationships, not business ones.  

Mediation is an attempt to effect a peaceful settlement in a dispute. That’s what the internet says anyway. Sounds close enough to me.  In the training we talked about self mediation as the tool most likely to be used when initiating a dialogue with another person with whom one is in conflict.  

Why is any of this even important?  All couples argue and it’s not that big of a deal.  Right? This can be true, but for Adam and me arguments can sometimes lead to stalemates that really get in the way of our family mission and goals.  

In fact, while we were in NY we decided to try out our newly learned tools on a particular point of contention, Adam’s recent intention to get into the dialysis center business.  It often seems to me that Adam collects businesses like they were baseball cards. It almost seems like a game for him. As I’ve mentioned before, we are in the middle of spinning off 6 businesses.  We started them all at the same time and now they’re all coming to a head at the same time. They all need time, energy, and capital. I tend to be very practical and safe with our resources. I’m fine to diversify, and even take risks, but I struggle to get behind things that aren’t in our wheelhouse.  We know nothing about this business and I’m wary to play in the medical field at all. Insurance and the industry bureaucracy would be a nightmare. But, this particular issue is appealing to him because it’s personal. His mother is preparing to start dialysis soon.  

I tend to want to discourage Adam from taking on too much at one time.  Adam sees a bigger vision and a strategy that COULD work. He doesn’t like to be held back from that vision and feels that the whole thing is a means to propel us closer to our goals, not farther away.  He wants me to trust him and I just want us to slow down and think through all of the parts when we have time. We don’t have time! As you can imagine, these arguments go around and around. We both end up frustrated and feeling misunderstood.  I feel like I have no say and that he’ll do whatever he wants regardless of my input and he feels like I’m living from a place of fear and closed mindedness and that I’m only fighting to be in control. He feels disrespected that I don’t trust him.  It’s a mess and our “conversation” in NY was no different. We’re in conflict and we need to reevaluate our approach to this problem.

The good thing about this conflict resolution method geared towards a business problem is that it take some of the she feels/he feels out of the equation and gets to the actual point, or issue statement.  

The issue statement has very specific criteria- it’s unbiased, objective, specific, resolvable, and concise.  It’s approach model is “I’m concerned about the business outcome at risk. I’ve noticed evidence (observable behavior/facts) of the problem and I’d like for us to find a solution to the difficulty we are having in working together to ensure the business outcome.”  

You fill in the blanks.  Example: “My husband never helps around the house and I feel unsupported.”  If this problem was put into an approach model it would sound like, “I’m concerned that the household isn’t running smoothly.  I’ve noticed that tasks are being left undone, things are getting lost, and we’re not working well as a team. I’d like for us to find a solution to the these issues together because it’s important to our family.” This is meant to set the tone for our conversations so that they don’t escalate into fights.  

Conducting a Successful Conflict Conversation is easier than you might think, according to the process described in our training.  First, find a time to talk. This initiation is really just a conversation about a conversation and where you present the issue statement. This is not a time to be drawn into a fight.  Be brave enough to reach out because there can be no solution without communication.  

Next, plan the context.  Approach matters when presenting the issue statement, so try to come without blame or overt emotions.  By doing this we remove the land mines and protect the dialogue. If there is some push back on the request to talk we may have to sell it a little and that’s ok. Defensiveness is human, because it’s a survival skill. Acknowledge the objection, show them how accepting the olive branch would benefit them and ask again.  Nicely.  

Here’s the catch. We need to lay some grouding rules; both parties must agree to a lengthy talk, it may take an hour or even an hour and a half, no walking away and no power-plays, meaning whatever we agree on has to equally benefit both of us.  Then arrange a time and place.  

During the actual conversation do three simple things; stick to the issue statement, speak to each other respectfully (no raising voices, name calling, or talking over each other, then make a plan for the future.  

Easy right? Well, the jury is still out.  We’ve yet to find a sit down time to hash all this out.  I mean, who has that long to sit and talk? Half of our life together is conducted over the phone.  Still, I like the idea of coming to a problem with a process we both agree on and you know your girl loves a schedule. I just worry that it’s a little too clinical.  I mean you’re running a tight ship when you have to schedule your fights. Is this a plan that’s actually realistic for real life? Personal relationships certainly carry a greater weight and depth than business relationships. But, our lower minds tend to like to tell us stories that make problems that aren’t there. 

Wouldn’t it be a refreshing change to be able to get to the heart of the matter without getting tangled in all the knots of emotions and agendas.  Maybe this really is the recipe for fighting fair! If we both really have the greater interest of the family at heart it’s all the more reason to work together towards resolution.  We’ll be continuing to try these things out in our life. Even if you don’t I think it’s valuable information to have in the back of your mind for you next “conversation”.