Seek to be effective

When faced with conflict, do you seek to resolve the situation in a way that makes you effective or just right?

How many times have you found yourself in conflict? It could be with a coworker, a volunteer or club leader, a parent or with your own children. How do you handle those difficult discussions? Do you listen to the concerns of others and make an effort to understand their point of view, or are you simply waiting to talk?

Speaking personally, over the years I have become quite good at disarming or dismantling the arguments of others. I’ve learned how to talk people in circles until they don’t even believe their own points of view anymore. I am very persuasive and some might call me a master debater. Despite this skill, my ideas and points of view are no more perfect than anyone else’s…I’m just better at stating my case. In fact, I have even had some colossally bad ideas that I have convinced others to go along with. In all of these cases, I was busy trying to be “right.” I had proven my case and given a convincing rationale for why my point of view or idea was the way to go, but as plans proceeded and I encountered obstacle after obstacle, it became pretty clear that the direction I had steered us in was absolutely not the most effective.

Robert Kennedy is quoted as having said, “The task of leadership, the first task of concerned people, is not to condemn or castigate or deplore; it is to search out the reason for disillusionment and alienation, the rationale of protest and dissent – perhaps, indeed, to learn from it.”

Kennedy’s quote reminds us that when others come to you with a disagreement, conflict or dissenting viewpoint, it is important to hear them out. Truly listen to what is being said and make an effort to put yourself in their shoes and understand where they are coming from. Too often we approach these situations as “my way vs. their way,” when many times, a solution can be found somewhere in between or through a synthesis of both.

Michigan State University Extension encourages you to think of conflicts and disagreements not as an opportunity to prove your point, but as an opportunity to practice empathy and compassion, as an opportunity to strengthen relationships. Whether it is a family member, coworker, volunteer or anyone else, seek out the solution that works best and not just the one that is most effectively argued.