December 2017
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resolving conflict in 5 steps: ask myself what hurt, assume the best, ask them why, accept, resolve


icon: "distance (two hands (from a brown person and a white person) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

prompt from secret_keep: What is the first step for you when resolving a conflict with someone? What is your ideal first step when someone is trying to resolve a conflict with you?

1) Ask myself why I am upset. Something the person has said or done has upset me, and I have to figure out why before I can productively discuss it. So let's say that someone invited all my friends to an event, but not me. My first reaction will be to feel hurt, and when I ask myself why, it's because this seems to me to be deliberately excluding me. But this is not necessarily the case!

2) Assume the best. I consider other possibilities -- maybe they thought I was busy, or uninterested, or they thought they invited me already but didn't, or they accidentally double-clicked and unselected me (in the case of evites). If one of those possibilities is true, then it is not hurtful any more. So, I am prepared to accept alternative reasons. Sometimes I can resolve a conflict all by myself by using these two steps.

3) Ask their motives. I approach the person and tell them what I was feeling and why, mention the other possibilities I thought of so that they know I am not automatically assuming the worst, and ask what their reason was for their behavior. It is very important to explain that I am not assuming some negative motive, because assuming a negative motive sets up something that they have to prove to be false rather simply asking a question they can freely answer. Unfortunately, people will often assume that you are assigning a negative motive anyway, because they are so used to only being confronted if someone has made them into an opponent. Pre-emptively empathizing by explaining how you can see positive motive usually helps but not always. There is also the problem that sometimes what I think is a neutral motive others will see as a negative motive, and so they will feel defensive if I mention this 'neutral' motive as a possibility. I don't see a way around that, but explaining that I see it as neutral sometimes helps.

4) Accept their reason and ask for clarification if necessary rather than assuming a particular meaning for their reason. If their reason was one that didn't hurt me, yay! all is better! If their reason was hurtful, then there may be a discussion or I may have to accept a painful truth. Let's say in this case that the person didn't invite me because they didn't think of me, but I would have expected them to think of me if they desired my company in general. I would tell them that I wanted them to desire my company and why (probably because I desired theirs), leaving it open-ended or directly asking if they desired my company. They can either tell me that they do desire my company but didn't think of me because of some other reason, or they can tell me why they do not desire my company, or they can drop the subject, or they can express empathy and leave it at that.

5) Resolve any remaining issue. If it still hurts after I understand their motives, I will ask them to empathize and/or problem solve with me. Sometimes despite the motive being fine, the action itself is upsetting, and then I discuss that with them and try to find a solution. For instance, if they didn't invite me because they were inviting someone else who wasn't comfortable with me being around, I could accept this as not personal, but if I was close to this person it would hurt each time unless they messaged me to say "it's about so-n-so again, sorry to not invite you, still love you." or perhaps they could alternate inviting me or this other person. Sometimes there is no solution to be had, and then all I can ask is that they consider how I feel and express empathy.

My ideal first step when someone is resolving conflict with me is the same. I want them to 1) figure out why they are upset, 2) give me the benefit of the doubt in assuming that my reasons are not hurtful ones, 3) tell me what they felt about what I did/said, why they felt that way, and ask me about my motives in an accepting and non-blamey way (for instance "what was the reason I wasn't invited?" not "why didn't you care enough about me to include me?"), 4) accept my motives and empathy, and 5) help me figure out a solution for future occurrences if one can be found.

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Comments
sabraka ══╣masq╠══
This is good to remember! Often I think my first instinct is to automatically assume the worst. Best to stay calm, avoid negativity, & work to resolve.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
*nods* When I forget, it goes so much worse and I feel grateful that I usually remember!
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.