Conflicts are a natural part of life. Learning how to resolve them becomes paramount if we are going to experience the closeness we all desire. Through the years, I have taught classes, seminars and counseled people on conflict resolution. I got to a point where I thought I was pretty good at it. But much to my surprise, occasionally I would run into conflicts that seemed impossible to resolve. I would shake my head and think, How can this be? What did I do wrong? I would review my tone, words, and body language. I seemed to be doing everything right.
Mind you, I am not suggesting that I always apply good conflict-resolution skills. But during these encounters I seemed to be doing it right. My strong desire to resolve the conflict kept me persisting in the conversations. I would think, “If I can show him that I understand him or phrase things just the right way, he’ll get it and we will resolve this issue.” But the conversation would get worse. Why?
In Dr. Alan Godwin’s book, How to Solve Your People Problems: Dealing with Your Difficult Relationships,he describes four essential truths:
- Close relationships involve conflict.
- Relationships work well only when conflict is handled well.
- We naturally handle conflict poorly.
- Conflict with reasonable and unreasonable people must be handled differently.
Godwin defines what bad conflict and good conflict look like with reasonable and unreasonable people. He discusses what he calls the “reason muscles:” humility, awareness, responsibility, empathy and reliability. He gives practical insights on how these qualities can be developed in our lives and how they are undeveloped in the lives of unreasonable people. He explains the damage caused by these undeveloped muscles in a relationship.
He describes the “dramas and roles” we play in dealing with unreasonable people. As he described dramas and roles, I was amazed at how accurate his descriptions were to my situations. I thought, Was he a fly on the wall taking notes on my experiences?
Dr. Godwin gives insights on how to assess situations and how to have good conflict. I found his descriptions insightful, practical and realistic. These principles have changed my approach to dealing with reasonable and unreasonable people.
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