On my leadership journey there have been so many LIFE and leadership lessons. One of the biggest epiphanies is when you realize that every failure, problem and or conflict is a chance to learn and get better. We have all been created equal in the fact that we are imperfect, unreasonable and sometimes unbearable. I say this with love and pointing directly at myself as the best example of this! I love this poem about people:
Lessons for life
People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest person with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest person with the smallest mind.
Think big anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack if you help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
— Dr. Kent M. Keith
This poem makes it clear that where there are people there will be problems, the key is learning how to resolve the conflict that they create. In Orrin Woodward’s book Resolved: 13 Resolutions for Life he covers in detail the art of conflict resolution. “Whether leading a business, church or charitable organization, the ability to resolve conflict is essential.” I encourage you to pick up this book and study this chapter, it will make all the difference in your relationships.
Today I wanted to share just a piece of the book to give you some action steps to apply the next time conflict occurs.
- Affirm the Relationship – Here is a great way to start a conversation: “I am here, even though it’s uncomfortable, because I value our relationship and would rather be uncomfortable resolving our misunderstandings than comfortable with misunderstandings in our relationship.”
- Seek to Understand –The key here is to truly hear the other side of the story. Many conflicts are resolved at this step when you are willing to look at the conflict from the other side. “Get curious, not furious.” Orrin Woodward
- Seek to be Understood –Remember, resolution is the object, not justification. After you successfully get through the first two steps you can share your perspective. Again, not to justify but to create understanding and a plan for future interactions.
- Own Responsibility by Apologizing – A leader is aware that it is always our fault, even when it is not. We need to take responsibly for as much of the conflict as we truthfully can. Even if the other party is entirely at fault I still apologize for my part in the problem and ask for forgiveness.
- Seek Agreement – Leave the table on the same side with a plan to avoid future conflict of the same nature. Other problems will arise but the same problems should not persist.
More animals in the barnyard, more “stuff” to deal with. The bigger the following we create the more problems we will encounter. Courage is the virtue that underlies all virtues. It will take courage to apply the five steps and resolve conflict, but the blessings of the strong relationships it will create will be eternal.