People ignore conflict for many reasons. In fact, there might be as many reasons as there are people. That being said, we’ve run into many of the same ones over and over again in the mediation business.
Here they are: the top five reasons people give for not resolving conflict, and the reasons those reasons don’t cut it.
1. They don’t think it’s necessary
In an earlier post, we discussed the need to learn conflict resolution skills, and why so many think it’s unnecessary. They may think the conflict will just go away; they may feel they don’t need any special expertise in handling disputes, or they may feel conflict is simply a normal part of life.
Perhaps it is, but then again so is disease. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to cure, or at least alleviate it. Unfortunately, in real life, conflicts rarely go away of their own accord. Passing conflict off as a “normal” part of life is a convenient way to weasel out of handling difficult situations, but it’s also an invitation for unnecessary suffering.
2. They don’t have the time
People often think learning basic conflict resolution skills takes too much time. It’s a hassle. There are so many other ways, more pleasurable ways to spend that time. After all, who wants to be learning how to resolve disputes when they can be skiing Aspen?
Unfortunately, unresolved conflict has a tendency to catch up with us. If you think it takes a long time to learn how to resolve conflict, just think of how long it takes to win (or lose) a lawsuit. Consider the time and energy drained by a prolonged legal battle. Consider how long it takes to restore a destroyed or poisonous relationship. How much time does it take to heal wounds that have festered? When we really think about how much time and money unresolved conflict costs, it suddenly seems more reasonable to learn a few techniques.
3. They think the other party is unwilling
Conflict resolution is never a one-man or one-woman game. It takes at least two, and usually three, to promote a fight, and it takes at least two to bring about a cessation of fighting. After all, what’s the point of trying to resolve a conflict if you’re the only one trying?
Only that misses the point. Yes, it may take at least two to fully resolve a conflict, but often it only takes one to initiate the resolution and reconciliation process. Part of learning how to resolve conflict is learning how to bring the other party to the table. One of the many skills mediators learn is how to convene mediation. Copping out before we’ve bothered to learn one of the most basic techniques isn’t much of an excuse. We can’t control what the other part does, but we can certainly control what we do.
4. They don’t think the conflict can be resolved
Some conflicts seem intractable. Maybe they’ve carried on for years if not decades. There’s too much history and too much bitterness. Hearts have hardened. It’s too late.
Of course, if nothing else has worked, then it’s the perfect time to delve deeper and find more promising approaches. It’s the perfect time to learn new conflict resolution techniques. Although the task may seem daunting, all it really takes is a little courage and a little fortitude. With just a little effort the results can be transformative. Finally resolving a seemingly intractable conflict is often a life-changing moment.
5. They don’t know how
Most of the time, people simply don’t know how to resolve conflict. They don’t even know where to begin. That’s why Taming the Wolf Institute is dedicated to helping people from all walks of life resolve conflict. We understand that conflict can be complicated, but we also know that it can be handled by anyone who has the right tools.
So if you are ready to abandon all the excuses and start your conflict resolution journey, check out our resources. Consult the manual (now available as a free PDF), the training videos, and the inspirational story of Saint Francis.
Also, be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up for our newsletter and stay updated as we break the conflict resolution process into bite-sized pieces.