Managing disagreement - mitigate or manipulate?


Positively managing conflict is a skill all of us should endeavor to develop and there is no better way to train than to first focus on ourselves. How we personally respond to those in disagreement with us speaks volumes on our spiritual maturity. For those of us who are married, this is especially apparent. Do we attempt to manipulate the conflict or are we able to mitigate disagreement to a positive result. Let's consider whether we lean toward manipulating or mitigating.

There are two primary and quite different manipulating behavioral responses:

The first type of manipulating is intentionally withholding favor or fellowship. Because disagreement is viewed as rejection, there is little time given to considering the bases of the disagreement. Less forward personality types have less obvious responses. They simply shut down and find ways to control the conflict through gossip, passive aggressive behavior or just checking out.

The second type of response is the direct counter-attack. Because disagreement is also received as rejection, a dominant personality will immediately reject the disagreement and project an illegal motive on the person expressing it. Counter-attacking also takes little if any time considering any validity of the disagreement. The effect is they are difficult to approach and even those close to them must approach disagreement carefully.

Both manipulating responses has commonality of purpose. The response is intended to establish strong no-fly zones by which others learn that crossing the boundaries will illicit the controlling response. Frequently, manipulating will not allow the true topic to every make it to the surface, which may be the primary objective of the controlling behavior. Without maturity, manipulating can frequently make us feel alone due to isolation from the unresolved conflict(s).

I believe most of us can relate to one of these manipulative behavior types. For me, I've tended toward being a withdraw guy with a lean towards checking out. Yet whatever our manipulative tendency, it is risky behavior that inhibits healthy disagreement.

Consider the alternative to manipulation - mitigation.

Because mitigating a disagreement requires understanding, successful managers are excellent listeners. When someone brings a disagreement directed at a skilled conflict manager, they assume there must be a bases for the disagreement and attentively listen for the key issue, Conflict managers see disagreement not as rejection but as an opportunity. The conflict is a opportunity to learn about themselves, to avoid a painful issue, or to train the other. It is not an attack and hence a counter-attack or rapid withdrawal is not warranted.

Healthy conflict managers set healthy boundaries and have great patience. They are willing to table a disagreement without withdrawing emotionally. Sometimes our perspective needs seasoning and that takes time. Because they have a life partners who are close enough to push them beyond their comfort zone, they have a emotional maturity that allow them to be challenged or even disagreed with. The validity of the claim is less important than how the disagreement is handled. The healthy boundaries are not no-fly zones but more common sense and practical.

Developing character in managing disagreements involving us is a prerequisite to having true authority in conflict resolution. We are then positioned to be utilized in conflicts not involving us. Perhaps even leading our cities and nations.


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