By Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
With the current curfew in place due to COVID-19, our new norm can be trying our nerves! The new measures like working from home, social distancing, and staying in are contributors for conflicting feelings or situations.
What happens if you are in a household and not everyone gets along in harmony? Or, you get along and are enjoying the break away from a toxic work environment or co-worker – how will you handle the stress when you return to the job? People tend to avoid situations they do have not control over.
Conflict specialist and mediator, Caryl Lashley, a Barrister with more than 40 year’s-experience has been working for decades with clients in the areas of mediation and conflict resolution.
Lashley has a superb understanding of the human psyche and behavior, and she offers insight and suggestions. They include understanding your conflict style, your ability to listen and another important tip – to pause. These suggestions work with family, co-workers and even strangers.
Whether inside or outside the home, relationships are important and how you manage them can help with your personal circumstances.
“Conflict is our response to a situation we find ourselves in and it is usually negative,” said Lashley.
“However, it can also be positive because if positively timed, it makes us introspective. We tend to skirt around things and walk away from fixing a problem but with the right knowledge and tips, we can help eliminate disputes or differences of opinion.”
With life considerably now on “go slow,” during this pandemic, it is a good time for reflection. Lashley believes that relationships matter wherever we are – they matter in our homes; at work and they also matter with people we have the occasional interaction.
With focus on strangers, here are two examples – the gas station attendant usually gives good service but today, he is not in a good mood and does not say thank you when you give him a tip, and hanging on to every dollar in these times is a priority.
Or, the person in line next to you at the grocery store is not respecting the social distance protocols put in place and you are “vexed”. With positive encounters, you usually smile and go about your day.
With negative encounters, you might bring that negative energy into the space of others and the mood you exhibit can cause conflict.
There is a Cherokee Proverb that Lashley refers to that paints an analogy for a powerful lesson.
“There is a battle of two wolves inside of us. One is evil – It is anger, jealously, greed, resentment, lies, inferiority and ego. The other is good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth. The one who wins – is the one you feed.”
During these trying times, we must reach inside of ourselves and to make sure that the good wolf surfaces more than the bad one. “Don’t let people pull you into their storm,” said Lashley. She strongly believes that for any conflict to be resolved, you must decide which wolf will win – and many times, it’s an individual decision.
When conflict arises three things can occur. Firstly, one of your needs is threatened or challenged; Secondly, there is common ground or an interest that you and the person you have the conflict with also has a stake or interest in what you do; And thirdly, emotions have come into play.
“Bahamian love to say – we will leave it to God. Please do not do that,” states Lashley.
“That will not resolve the conflict. God has his work to do. He puts things on our plate – and we should deal with our stuff. If you hold in the malice you have in your heart, as each day passes, the conflict festers.”
Lashley feels that if you understand your conflict style, it is a major factor for resolution. Some of them are: The fighter, the listener, and the compromiser – seeing the other person’s view. The style you chose determines the outcome of the conflict.
“It’s okay to disagree,” said Lashley.
“Understand that people see things differently and that your differences should not make you enemies. Try to move on in the best interest of the situation and for the parties. Pay attention to the future of the relationship and try to avoid a power struggle.”
A major contributor to conflict is the inability to listen – actively, in the moment and engaged. Social media and multi-tasking have contributed to humans being poor listeners. Ever try being fully engaged and the distractions like incoming notifications on the phone turn your attention away from the conversation at hand for just a moment?
The slight distraction can cause you to miss something the person said. If that happened when you were supposed to be fully engaged in a conversation with a manager for example, later you discover that the information each of you have regarding the discussion does not match, and that is when conflict arises. You only half listened, and the verbal exchange then becomes personal.
The manager might say, “What was the matter – you deaf – eh?”
Or how about – “If you did not spend so much time on your phone, you would know what I said.”
The attack became personal and unkind. Addressing the behavior is necessary however, for better results, it is better to focus on the issue and not on the person.
Active listening and not interrupting or being drawn into anyone’s conflict tends to eliminate problems. Look how the situation can escalate. Once there is a misunderstanding and you go to your co-worker or family member to complain, and they nod their head – they got sucked into the storm.
Lashley suggests that you do not nod your head when listening because it can be misconstrued as agreement. The third party in the room could see it as you are agreeing with the other person and not them.
In conversations, we need to be careful with our words. Try to be basic and non-violent with the choice of words. For example, if someone is often late for a meet up, it is best to not say, “You’re always late. You’re never on time.”
If the person is late one out of three times, in their mind, they are not always late. Your words end up being a sort of violence in language – an accusing tone. Discuss the person’s action – their arrival time and not the person.
Most importantly, you should learn to pause. Pausing allows you to decide what you are going to say, or what you are going to ask. It ties back to relationships matter. Remember, if relationships matter, try not to get into conflict. If you must apologize, then do it sincerely.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to pause, reflect and allow us to improve ourselves and our relationships with others.
Caryl Lashley is determined to encourage, educate and strive for peaceful and amicable resolutions to conflict. In 2016, she founded ADR Bahamas, to provide education and stimulation for non-violent communication and conduct, as well as provide neutrals to facilitate conflict resolution.
You can reach her at email@example.com