Conflicts are a drag on our time, on our money and on our nerves. Yet distinct differences between people, from which conflict can arise, are part of life and show no signs of diminishing.
How can we avoid the high cost of clashing and still preserve what is important to us?
Taking sides and defending turf cost a community in terms of friendship, trust and good will.
Invariably, these actions result in some people losing, thus setting the stage for further discord down the road. Being in conflict leaves people operating at a low potential.
Understandably, people usually try to avoid conflict, but often do so at the cost of ignoring their own and other people’s needs and delaying important decisions. When identified before personal relationships begin breaking down, it is possible to identify strong differences and to take steps which will help all the parties involved to arrive at mutually beneficial outcomes.
The stakes people face today are high. Businesses and communities cannot afford to squander human and financial resources where the net result is loss–for anyone.
Time after time, I have watched people operate at higher levels than they had been accustomed to in the past. I can only conclude that given an authentic opportunity to collaborate, rather than engage in conflict, most people will rise to the occasion.
There is a way of turning potential conflict into a channel for exceptional outcomes.
(In some instances, this work has been referred to as “conflict avoidance.” Note that I am not a mediator and the work is not conflict resolution.)
A real-life story: Transforming a potential loss into everyone’s gain.
The farmers and ranchers in an idyllic, pastoral Northwest river valley had hundreds of acres and millions of dollars on the line. If they didn’t all cooperate on this issue, they all stood to lose. Here are the words of one of the participants:
“My wife and brother-in-law own property recently incorporated into the City of Arlington. We began the process leading up to this event several years ago, when the property was not in the city, nor even in its Urban Growth Area.
We contacted about a dozen landowners around us in an attempt to work together to get all of these contiguous properties into Arlington’s Urban Growth Area, and eventually into the City of Arlington. Our first several meetings were characterized by an unsettling degree of secrecy and distrust on the part of several of the landowners.
“Collective Intelligence Solutions, headed by Robert Bystrom, offered to help us achieve a more cooperative spirit in our group. In only one meeting, using the exercises facilitated by Robert and his staff, we were able to ‘break the ice’ with all of the group members. Each member finally felt free to state clearly what he or she hoped to achieve with his or her property. The atmosphere was such that all members agreed to honor each landowner’s needs and desires throughout the process. It was the change we needed to break the barrier of mistrust that we were faced with.
“We are very pleased with the results of this workshop. The group was sufficiently cohesive from that point forward, not only to get all of our properties into the Urban Growth Area, but also to negotiate a good price for the properties with a developer.”
Ted Thorsen, Mt. Vernon, WA