What do you do when you find yourself a party to an altercation you may, or may not have started?
What do you do when you find yourself in the middle of a conflict where anything you say or do could either escalate or curtail the situation?
Those where the questions I sought to help 90 emerging leaders answer over the last 3 working days of last week,each day with a different group of 30.
In February of this year, I entered into an agreement with U.S. Embassy in Monrovia to conduct a series of trainings for alumni of various U.S Government leadership exchange programs in Liberia. In March, we began with 3 workshops over 3 days on Transformational leadership. In April it was 3 workshops over 3 days conflict management, and in May it will be Financial Literacy.
The workshop on conflict management was created with two objectives in mind: equip emerging leaders with the right understanding of conflict so they can better manage themselves in potentially conflicting situation. The 2nd objective was to help them be peace ambassadors armed with the knowledge to curter their piece.
The feedback from participants was equally fulfilling . They learned a lot. one participant walked up to me during lunch and said;
“Dan, you know, all along, whenever I’ve heard conflict management, or conflict resolution, I’ve always thought of the higher levels like politics and civil wars. now I realize that some of the challenges I’ve been dealing with at my business was becuase I had no understanding of conflicts”.
What is a conflict?
As conflict comes about when there are two opposing views or ideas on a given subject. Example of conflicts include:
- Indecision on which dress to wear to the dinner party
- Arguments on which movie to watch: Horror or Nigerian Drama
- What marketing strategy to highlight in the next quarter so as to reach a businesses’ annual goal.
Knowing what conflicts are, it helps to understand a few additional facts about the them.
- Conflicts are a fact of life. it is natural; and whenever or whatever human beings come together, there are bound to be conflicts.
- Conflicts in themselves are not violent. It is the way they’re handled that escalates conflicts to violence.
- A life without conflicts will be quite dull
- Conflicts can be resolved in a peaceful means.
- When conflicts are not managed maturely, they could lead to loss of resources, and cause lots of anger, emotion and pain.
Where does conflict come from?
There are three things over which all conflict occur:
I want you to STOP for a minute and think of any conflict you remember, and then see if it does not fall into one of the above mentioned 3.
When conflicts come from a place of resources, it is usually it situation where someone is not getting what they believe they’re supposed to be getting. Here in Africa, it is usually over the issue of land, or monies from other natural resources like oil, gold diamonds etc. Conflict arise over all sorts of resources.
This is where someone feels insulted. Someone feels he has been taken for a fool, maybe.
Someone is hurt, and that person wants revenge.
Some people would rather die, than go against their values (beliefs) especially those that concern religion. When people begin o think that their beliefs are better than others, we have conflict .
The Real Lessons
The real lessons for me came on after the 3rd workshop day. This was when I was was confronted with what would be the first of two quite serious conflict between two people I love. You see, managing conflict is easy when you’re one of the parties involved. But when you have the peacemaker between two or more parties who do not understand the dynamics of conflicts as you do, then we have a real situation. but it’s not all rough.
With proper education and communications skills you can do a lot to put the conflict under control. i will add though that there will be times when one or both parties have no intention of of experiencing peace. When that becomes the case, the approach is quote different. One that I will not be touching in this post.
So how can you manage a conflict between two parties?
I’m glad you asked: It comes down to two things Education & Communications.
In my conflict management workshop, I helped participants realize how value systems are different, ans that most times, the conflicts originate from different in values. Or, that feelings are a direct result of how we interpret experiences.
So one person may hear or experience something and not take it to be anything; another person however, could have an exact same experience in feel insulted.
Education comes to play when you can get both parties to understand these basic concepts- that individual values need to be respected, that sometimes people say or do things without realizing that it could offend the other party.
Communication skills are very important for you the mediator one hand, and conflicting parties on the other hand. By using stories for example, you can deflate the situation faster than anything, if you know how. Conflicting parties could also avoid conflicts by seeking further clarity.
Forgive and Let go – Some times, the conflicts lead to violation of the law. In such cases the law has to take its course. However, one tool that help restore peace is forgiveness. When someone offends you, whether or not that person comes to ask for forgiveness, the best thing you can do for yourself is to let go. In the workshop we do a practical demonstration to show participants the effects of un-forgiveness to oneself versus forgiving and letting go.
So there you have highlights from the session on conflict management.
I’d love to hear your thoughts; would you be interested in going through this workshop yourself?
How about becoming a certified conflict management practitioner where you can start getting paid to make a
difference in the world by managing conflicts and building peace.