Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Resolve the Conflict in DC

What is the problem?

I try not to watch the evening news anymore! That’s a strange feeling for someone that has been a news junkie all his life. But times have changed. The elephants and donkeys are at war, fiscal conservatives can’t get along with social conservatives, and progressives are fighting moderates. 

I understand that conflict is inevitable but reasonable heads need to deal with it properly. If an organization is going to move forward (or backward) there is bound to be some who object to the direction. Centuries ago Sir Isaak Newton developed basic physical laws of motion. To paraphrase Newton;

“Whenever there is a force on a body that puts it in motion there 
will be an equal and opposite force opposing that motion.”

Friction is the equal and opposite force that opposes moving bodies. Therefore, any individual, organization, business, or church is will encounter serious friction when they begin to move. Friction, in turn, will result in heat - the more movement, the greater the heat.

In any organization, poor leadership can lead to conflict. Over the past half-century, there has been a decided lack skilled leadership in the Whitehouse, Congress, and our political parties. Instead of leaders, we have had politically motivated individuals placed in the top positions.

Good leaders would have confronted conflicts before they reached the impossible stages. But issues have been stuffed and solutions postponed. When major issues are not handled properly and timely we end up with the problems we have today in Washington.

Let’s take a look at how minor conflicts can eventually destroy reasonable discourse. Without intervention, conflict can spin out of control in a downward spiral. At each stage, the conflict gets worse and becomes more difficult to resolve. Therefore conflict needs to be confronted early before it falls into the next stage.

Stage 1. The Remedy Stage. - “Fix the problem”

Characteristics of this stage:
  1. Recognition that there is a problem.
  2. But there is disagreement on how to solve the problem.
  3. Parties want the problem resolved and can make a commitment to solving it
  4. There remains a belief that the problem can be solved.
  5. There is still honest communication between parties involved.

If the problem is not solved conflict at this stage it will move to stage 2.

Washington has passed this milestone decades ago.

Stage 2.  The Re-Positioning Stage

Characteristics of this stage:
  1. The focus is beginning to shift from solving the problem to protecting one’s self.
  2. People are nervous.
  3. In discussions, they begin to speak in generalizations. “You always are like that.”
  4. The level of trust between parties has dropped to “Low.”
  5. Now communications is guarded and cautious.
If the problem is not solved in this stage conflict moves on to stage 3. Again, we are past this stage.

Stage 3 Rights Stage - People declare their rights.  -  “I’m right so you must be wrong.

Characteristics of this stage:
  1. Each side believes they are the good person that has the only possible answer to the problem.
  2. Each side of the conflict now seek others who agree with them and everyone has to pick which side they are on.
  3. People become labeled.  (Carnal Vs Godly) His side or Her side
  4.  The solution shifts from resolving the problem to winning.  “Whoever can recruit the biggest team will win.”
  5. Communication becomes exaggerated and distorted.

If the problem is not solved at this stage the conflict will move into the Removal stage. 

It looks to me we are way past this point.

Stage 4. The Removal Stage  - “Get rid of those people.”

Characteristics of this stage:
  1. People are no longer satisfied with getting their own way.  Now they have to get rid of the opposition.
  2. The Goal is divorce.
  3. Other people are now in respective camps.
  4. There is a clear leader in each camp.
  5. Trust is now gone.

If the problem is not solved in this stage it will move into the “Revenge” stage. 

Aha! We are getting close!

Stage 5. Revenge  Stage  - “Make someone pay.”

Characteristics of the “Revenge Stage.”
  1. People are not satisfied with resignation.
  2. People have now become fanatics.
  3. The conflict has become a personal God issue.
  4. They feel it is immoral to stop fighting.

The conflict has now gone way out of bounds.

It appears to me that the conflicts in our government today are somewhere between Stage 4 and Stage 5. There is still hope if cooler heads can bring the sides together.

Constructive Conflict Management

It is time for someone to step up and take charge and set the tone for resolving the current mess! Use good conflict resolution methods! 

  • Agree on a time and place to talk it out.
  • Assertively, honestly express your feelings
  • Depersonalize. Focus on the problem, not on the person
  • Select a neutral referee
  • Develop a positive mature attitude
  • When something goes wrong, search for a solution.
  • Focus on specifics and simplify the situation.
  • Be open and available
  • When problems arise, work them out.
  • Listen, wait and learn
  • Forgive and forget

Please forgive my shamful plug [see below] for my latest book, but the book was inspired by the present political climate in Washington. 

Check out my new book, "Conflict Resolution for Dummies."

Bill Johnson

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