Conflict is often destructive. Nothing can be more discouraging, painful, and sad then having conflict with someone. Take a look at this true life scenario from one of our team members.
True Life Scenario
“I had been working together with this person for years, and we were not only co-workers but friends. We were similar in a lot of ways and that bonded us together on a number of levels. We had a similar childhood upbringing and had been on our own since our early teen years. Our personalities were strong and eventually that, along with a number of other factors, ultimately doomed our friendship and our professional working relationship. I shared my life, hopes, dreams, fears with this person because I trusted them. Then one day during a heated confrontation, our relationship was destroyed. Soon after, gossip and back-biting began, and the years of friendship were erased and supplanted with bitterness, anger, fear, and loss. That was a very bad day. What made it worse was that this person was in a managerial position over me. It just turned into an ugly, ugly messy conflict…”
Before going into the “rough & tumble” of that day, let’s consider first the elements of healthy relationships.
- Trust in a relationship is vital. That is not to say that there is never a time when questions, opinions, and words “rock the boat.” But trust means we listen to each other. One listens, and the other speaks. So often in life’s situations, both parties speak at the same time with no one listening. Have you ever had an experience like that? When tensions rise, those in conflict will most often start blurting out offenses causing the other person to become defensive. These types of interactions in conflict accomplish nothing but brokenness.
- In a trusting relationship, each party holds the other in respect, always hoping to protect and not destroy. Trust means we are honest with each other and choose words wisely and carefully. The use of “I” messages soften what is heard. Rather than saying, “You really hurt my feelings when you did or said that!” the” I” message would be, “I was really hurt when you said this and that. Can we talk about it?”
- Keep in mind that evaluation can easily slip into criticism. No one can really know another one’s heart or motivation from something said. Take care not to slip into assuming what the other person’s motives are!
- Trust provides a safe place! We expect confidentiality. We expect to be listened to. We expect what we say to be handled carefully, throwing away at times the “chaff” and keeping the “grain.” Trust allows us to be ourselves without judgment calls. In relationship, trust is protected and felt by both parties, be it boss to associate, friend to friend, or parent to child.
Is there ever a place for anger in relationships?
We would say, Yes. But by anger we don’t mean blasting the other person “off the map.” Anger can and should be expressed in such a way that the other’s personhood is NOT attacked. In other words express the anger, preserve the relationship!
Do you know an angry person? Or are you angry some or much of the time? Why is it anger rears its fearsome head? A good definition for anger is “the ‘juice’ of madness that comes when one feels disrespected, hurt, powerless, even scared, with unmet needs.” In some cases, people are so hurt and angry that the relationship shuts down in order that no more hurt will occur. We can even behave ourselves out of relationships, at work or in the home!
Let’s return to the earlier scenario and see how it got even more messy.
“I remember my phone ringing one morning, and without consideration of my time and busy workload, my ex-friend and boss abruptly yelled out, “I’ll be over in an hour. We’re going to talk!” What shocking words these were. Granted, we needed a time to talk since tension seemed to have been growing for several weeks. From that conversation on, one inappropriate thing happened after another sending the relationship into a crumbling mess! It didn’t take long for everything to unravel, all those good times, all those conversations, all the supposed respect and admiration were gone.
The meeting we embarked upon was tense. The accusations flew like bullets toward me. No ‘I’ messages were used. No respect was granted, and my whole life and work seemed to crumble when she said to me, ‘You do everything for yourself!’ This hit me like a ton of bricks. This was so devastating because my whole life, I was dedicated to helping and caring for those who were sick, infirmed, and suffering. I thought to myself, ‘How in the hell could you accuse me of that!’
The damage was done…it was like the final nail in the coffin-a supposed friend and boss questioning my very core values and motives. I felt I was living a life of selflessness and care for others, but here I was being accused of selfishness. All those “in confidence” conversations we had during our friendship were used against me and thrown back at me as criticisms.
Needless to say, our voices reached a fevered pitch. She was bent on using her power and position to smash me to bits…she succeeded. After our meeting, the pain and sorrow were great, but I had to go back out on the floor, put a smile on my face, and continue to provide care and service to my patients.”
Have you ever had a day like that? Chances are you have. How successful though were you at resolving the situation? Conflict is never easy, but when we follow certain principles of conflict resolution, the damage can be minimized and relationships still preserved. Many bad things happened in our scenario, but let’s highlight three aspects here: boundaries, clarification, and understanding anger.
Boundaries were violated. People do not have permission to attack and destroy. Though feeling devastated, the attacked party could have drawn a deep breath and called for clarification. “I feel like you are saying you know all my motives. I am sorry, but no one can know another person at that level!”
Not once did the accuser give the accused opportunity to clarify or explain. And that wasn’t the last of the bad day scenario. Emails continued to “blast away”! To this present day, the relationship is gone but not the hope that someday friendship will be restored. Probably there will never again be a deep relationship, but time can give perspective, and in relationship the act of forgiveness can never be excluded.
Anger is the “juice” of madness. So when anger rears its head, stop, take stock, and then talk to friends or colleagues. Let’s be out to save relationships!
Conflict happens. Hey, maybe we should make a bumper sticker. The fact of the matter is we need to be willing and able to navigate conflict effectively in order to work as a team. The healthcare and human services industry is complex and demanding. In order to provide high-quality care, we must be able to work successfully with one another and overcome the many challenges of working with fellow human beings.
Our goal here at ClickPlayCEU.com is to inspire you to be the best you personally and professionally so that you can provide high-quality care and services. We just released 4 courses in succession that address some of the topics and difficulties addressed in this blog. We invite you to watch the following 4 courses so that you are able to communicate effectively, resolve conflict, develop positive work cultures, and function successfully on teams.
• Mastering Effective Communication
• Effective Conflict Resolution
• Creating a Positive Workplace Culture
• The Essentials of Effective Teamwork
As we’ve said, and as you can see from the true-life scenario, conflict, communication and working as a team isn’t easy. We need knowledge, skills, and practice to navigate the difficult waters of life. Home, work, kids, pets and many other aspects of life can be taxing but if you have the ability to preserve relationships with others no matter what the circumstance, you will be well on your way to being successful in every realm.